Israeli FM Claims Dermer Didn't Consult Netanyahu When He Said Tlaib, Omar Wouldn't Be Barred

Yisrael Katz says Israeli ambassador to U.S. acted on own initiative when saying Israel would not block American lawmakers from entering country

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer speaking to the media after a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in New York, December 26, 2016.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP

Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was acting on his own initiative and not on behalf of the prime minister or government when he said that congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar would be allowed to enter the country, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said on Saturday in an interview with Channel 12 News' "Meet the Press." 

>> Read more: Fierce backlash to Tlaib travel ban is a time bomb for the U.S.-Israel 'special relationship' | Analysis ■  Israel presented Tlaib with a cruel dilemma: Her principles or her family | Analysis ■ The real winners in the Tlaib-Omar saga

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 35Haaretz

However, a source familiar with the deliberations that preceded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to bar the American lawmakers told Haaretz that Dermer's statement was made after talks were held with five different government offices, including Katz's Foreign Ministry. 

Israel Katz talking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 29, 2019.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

Netanyahu and Dermer's offices have yet to respond to Haaretz's request for comment.

Last month, Dermer announced that Tlaib and Omar would be allowed to enter the country: "Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America," his government would not deny entry "to any member of Congress." 

This week saw Israel changing course and announcing that the two legislators, who have expressed support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, would not be allowed to arrive, following pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump – which included a public statement that allowing them in would be a sign of weakness.

On Friday, Tlaib said she is canceling her planned visit to the West Bank due to Israel's "oppressive conditions" after Israel's Interior Ministry accepted her petition to visit on "humanitarian grounds," and calling on Americans to "re-evaluate our unwavering support" for Israel. 

A day earlier, Israel barred Tlaib and Omar from entering the country.

The decision was criticized by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, as well as numerous American lawmakers who have been supporitve of Israel.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio author of the Combatting BDS Act, called it a mistake. While stressing he disagrees with Omar and Tlaib, Rubio added that "being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state."

Congressman Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party, said Israel should stand up to Trump and allow the visit. "Nobody has to agree with their opinions, but it will inevitably harm U.S.-Israel relations if members of Congress are banned from the country. We must find ways to come together; there’s enough division," he tweeted.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat who is a frontrunner in the race for the party's 2020 presidential nomination, tweeted that no leader of the free world should encourage a democracy to deny entry to visitors based on the content of their ideas — even ideas they strongly object to.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat, said the decision was "beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel."