15 August 2019   Leave a comment

Israel has barred two US Congresspeople, Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from visiting East Jerusalem and the West Bank because of the support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement. The decision comes even though the Israeli Ambassador to the US had agreed that they should be allowed to visit. The change of heart came after US President Trump tweeted that Israel should bar the visit:

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

The decision is hard to justify. Israel has passed a law barring the entry of people who support the BDS Movement, but the fact that the US Congress annually allocates a great deal of money to Israel. According to the Congressional Research Service:

” Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $142.3 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although from 1971 to 2007 Israel also received significant economic assistance.

“In 2016, the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaced a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which ran through FY2018.”

Additionally, the US Congress has a number of responsibilities to monitor the protection of human rights in the world as well as to address the concerns of other countries, notably in Europe and the Middle East, that have relations with Israel.

Moreover, the Democratic Party has a long history of strong support for the state of Israel, and it is not clear why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that it is more important to curry favor with President Trump at the risk of possibly alienating members of the Democratic Party. It is unlikely that anyone in the Democratic Party will abandon support for Israel, but the rebuff to Omar and Tlaib will not sit well with some members of the Party. Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and a fierce opponent of President Trump, points out that many Jews in the US do not support Israel’s decision:

“Heads of major Jewish organizations had been on the phone with the U.S. ambassador to Israel imploring Israel not to take this step. According to the leader of one such group, the leader’s group had been urging the Israeli government to stick by the original decision to let the congresswomen in, while being under no illusion about the congresswomen’s views. The potential political and reputational costs of not letting them in might be even higher than of letting them in, the leader acknowledged.”

Emma Goldberg has written an op-ed for the Jewish journal, Forward, which soundly condemns the decision.

Finally, we need to think clearly what it means for an American President to advise a foreign power to insult Congresspeople who have been legitimately elected by their constituents.

Posted August 15, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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