Trump Accuses Rashida Tlaib of 'Complete Setup' Over Nixed Israel, West Bank Visit

Earlier, Tlaib canceled her trip citing 'oppressive conditions,' after Israel accepted her petition to visit on 'humanitarian grounds'

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, July 15, 2019.
AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump said overnight Friday that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's decision to cancel her visit to the West Bank after Israel had decided to approve her petition to enter the country on "humanitarian grounds" so she may visit her Palestinian grandmother is "a complete setup."    

Trump tweeted that "Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!"

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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. 

>> Read more: Nixing Tlaib and Omar visit, Netanyahu harms Israel to assuage Trump’s ego | Analysis ■ Trump and Netanyahu just broke the special relationship between America and Israel | Opinion ■ In the Tlaib-Omar saga, all the politicians are winners | Analysis 

"Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate would break my grandmother's heart," Tlaib said in a statement, apparently referencing Israel's demand that she agree not to promote boycotts against Israel and "respect the limitations put on her" during her visit. "Silencing me with treatment to make me feels less-than is not what she wants for me – it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice." She added that "I will not allow the Israeli government to humiliate me and my family or take way our right to speak out."

The statement further said that the Israeli government's "alignment with Trump's hate agenda must prompt a re-evaluation of our unwavering support for the State of Israel," and that the denial of entry is "about the deep-rooted racism within Israel that is taking us further away from peace."

Interior Minister Arye Dery, who earlier approved Tlaib's humanitarian request to visit her grandmother in the West Bank, tweeted in response that her cancellation showed that her request was a mere provocation to smear Israel. "Her hatred for Israel supersedes her love for her grandmother," Dery wrote. 

On Thursday, Israel barred Tlaib and fellow Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering the country, citing their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, after Trump declared that Israel would be showing weakness by letting them into the country. 

Omar disputed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that she and Tlaib didn't ask to meet with Israeli government or opposition officials before he barred them from visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Omar tweeted Friday they planned to meet with Jewish and Arab members of the Israeli parliament plus other Israeli officials.

In addition, she said they were going to get briefings on the impact of Israeli settlements on Bedouins in East Jerusalem, a UN briefing on the effects of U.S. humanitarian aid cuts, hold a video conference with Gaza youth and tour the West Bank city of Hebron with Israeli military veterans.

In a letter she sent to Dery on Thursday, Tlaib wrote that she was requesting approval to visit Israel "in order to visit relatives, especially my grandmother who is in her nineties, and lives in Beit Ur al-Fauqa. This may be my last opportunity to see her." 

After the decision was made to deny visas to the two lawmakers, Tlaib uploaded a picture of her grandmother to Twitter and wrote "The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. congresswoman, is a sign of weakness because the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening."

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," as well as condemning Trump's comments about the two lawmakers.

Last month, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.