GP Insights # 127, 17 August 2019
On Friday, US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan refused to visit Israel despite the permission given to her on humanitarian grounds by the Israeli Interior Ministry. Earlier, the Israeli Interior Ministry refused entry to two Congresswomen - Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar on the grounds of Anti-Boycott Law of 2017.
The ban was criticised by senior Senators and Congressmen across Democratic and Republican parties as well as by the pro-Israeli groups in the US, suggesting that it would weaken diplomatic ties between US and Israel. The two congresswomen were not allowed to be part of the 72-member delegation of the House of Representatives visiting Israel, a trip sponsored by the American Israeli Education Foundation. Although approved initially, Netanyahu’s government changed its decision after being pressurised by US President Trump via private lobbying and public tweeting. The decision came just hours after Trump softly threatened Israel on Twitter, of displaying weakness if it admitted these two congresswomen.
What is the background?
Both the Congresswomen were targeted along with two others last month by President Trump to leave the country if they are displeased with the US. In March this year, Omar was involved in the controversy with her anti-Semitic tropes against the supporters of Israel.
The two congresswomen are vocal supporters of Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which advocates for sanctions against Israel for its occupation in the West Bank.
Based on the Anti-Boycott Law, Israel previously denied entry of several MEPs, but no US lawmaker was subjected to it so far. Senior House leaders lobbied for the inclusion of the two congresswomen in the Israel trip citing respect for US Congress and the alliance between the two nations, despite the representatives’ anti-Israeli rhetoric in the past.
What does this mean?
The coercion from Trump for the ban on the two congresswomen demonstrates the exertion of his power beyond the nation’s boundaries. This move may indicate more of such incidents to come.
The existing rift between the White House and the Congress may widen with the exposure of domestic political differences on the international arena.
The suggestion for ban adds to the continuing chain of mutual support of far-right policies by both the leaders, following the shift of US embassy to Jerusalem and US recognition of Golan Heights as Israeli territory. The decision on the ban is significant for both Trump and Netanyahu in the coming elections in both countries as none of them wants a portrayal of weakness in their exercise of power.