Omar and Tlaib Will Be Allowed to Visit Israel, Israeli Envoy to U.S. Says

'Out of respect for Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry' to pro-BDS congresswomen, Ron Dermer states

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens to President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington, February 2019.
J. Scott Applewhite,AP

WASHINGTON – Israel will allow congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to enter the country when they arrive for an official visit in a few weeks, according to Israel's Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer.

The ambassador said on Friday that "out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel."

Dermer's comments came after several days of uncertainty, during which Israeli officials considered different reactions to the legislators' upcoming visit.

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Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will decide whether they would be let into the country, due to the sensitivity of the congresswomen's planned visit and its possible ramifications on Israeli-U.S. relations. But officials with knowledge of the subject later said that Netanyahu is expected to ask the opinion of the National Security Council.  

Omar and Tlaib have both expressed support for boycotts of Israel and the settlements in the West Bank, and according to Israel's anti-boycott laws, this could have been used by the Israeli authorities to prevent their entry into the country. However, the prospect of a political crisis involving members of Congress, convinced the Israeli government that it would be better to allow them to enter the country. 

On Thursday, Arab Israeli Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman sent official solidarity letters to the American lawmakers, “to express my appreciation for your tireless work on behalf of the Palestinian people“ and “in light of President Trump’s recent attacks."

Touma-Sliman wrote: “When I read of President Trump’s vicious attacks, I was struck by the similarity between his racist incitement and that practiced by his close ally PM Benjamin Netanyahu.”

She added that she is committed to doing “whatever is in our power” to enable the congresswomen's planned visit to Israel and the West Bank and asked to meet to with them together with "people who are fighting for peace and freedom from within Israel – Palestinians and Jews alike."

Omar and Tlaib broke barriers when they were elected as the first Muslim U.S. congresswomen in November. Omar, who was born in Somalia and immigrated at a young age to Minnesota, and Tlaib, who was born in Michigan to Palestinian parents, have been outspoken about their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, garnering accusations of anti-Semitism for their statements and support for the BDS movement.

On Thursday, Omar introduced a House resolution that "opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad," and affirms Americans' right to pursue boycotts "in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad."

Noa Landau contributed to this report.