PM Benjamin Netanyahu addresses AIPAC conference in Washington, Mar. 6, 2018. (MFA) (MFA)
Netanyahu AIPAC

Rather than condemning the decision made by Netanyahu and his security advisers to bar Tlaib and Omar from Israel, pro-Israel groups should respect their judgment.

By Atara Beck

Last Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on the barring of US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Israel – or, as their itinerary said, “Palestine – stated: “The Minister of Interior has decided not to allow their visit, and I, as Prime Minister, support his decision.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a prestigious pro-Israel lobbying group, opposed Israel’s decision.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” AIPAC said in a statement.

“We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” AIPAC added.

“A good-faith visit to Israel is the best way to be exposed to its democracy, complexities, and range of views. And so while we absolutely disagree with the pro-BDS positions of Reps. @IlhanMN & @RashidaTlaib, keeping them out is counterproductive,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted.

Similarly, “the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) believes that every member of Congress, without exception, should be allowed to visit Israel, irrespective of whether we agree with their point of view. The relationship between Israel and the U.S. Congress is longstanding and unique, and has served as the bulwark of America’s bi-partisan support for Israel for decades,” JFNA said in a statement.

“The first instinct of Israeli officials to let them into the country was [the] right one,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center stated.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris tweeted that Israel “should’ve taken the high road & let these Members of Congress in, no matter how vile their views.”

Experiencing Israel Firsthand?

One might wonder how Tlaib and Omar would experience the “democratic ally Israel firsthand,” as AIPAC suggests, since they had refused any opportunity to do so.

According to the BDS-pushing congresswomen’s itinerary, they were going to “Palestine” via Ben-Gurion International Airport.

As Netanyahu explained, “unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition.”

Furthermore, “the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.”

Their itinerary, he said, “reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”

Whether one agrees or not with the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib is one thing, but for AIPAC and JFNA to publicly condemn Israel’s decision only helps the vehemently anti-Israel congresswomen in their efforts to undermine the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, during the past 10 days alone, Israel has had to contend with several Palestinian terror attacks from both Ramallah and Gaza, including a stabbing attack that claimed the life of 19-year-old yeshiva student Dvir Sorek and a car-ramming attack that wounded two teen siblings – one moderately, the other seriously.

Rather than condemning the decision made by the Israeli leader and his security advisers, pro-Israel American Jewish organizations should respect their judgment and stand with Israel.