The day after Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was officially barred from entering Israel, the country’s interior minister has granted her request to be allowed in so she can visit her grandmother in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds.
Tlaib wrote to authorities on Aug. 15, after she and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were barred entry under an Israeli law that bars those calling for a boycott of Israel.
“I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa. This could be my last opportunity to see her,” Tlaib wrote in the letter, which became public on Aug. 15, reported the Jerusalem Post.
Omar and Tlaib publicly announced support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to cut off economic support for Israel to end the so-called occupation.
“I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” Tlaib wrote in the letter.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri approved the request on Aug. 16, in a move backed up by the security minister, according to a statement obtained by the Jerusalem Post.
Tlaib is now expected to visit her family between Aug. 18 and Aug. 24.
“The decision to bar entry from the congresswomen was just and correct, because it emerged clearly from their planned itinerary that the purpose of the visit, as it was planned for them, was to continue to support and promote the boycott of Israel,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, said in a statement obtained by the Times of Israel.
“Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s request to visit her grandmother should be approved, especially in light of her commitment to honor Israeli law and refrain from promoting boycotts of us.”
An Israeli law passed in 2017 prohibits the entry of any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.” Israeli authorities initially held back from invoking the law out of diplomatic respect.
The Israeli Ambassador to the United States announced in July that a waiver would be issued for the two Congresswomen, despite their being in violation of the law.
“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 told the Times of Israel.
However, on Aug. 15, authorities announced the two Congresswomen could no longer travel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “No country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the State of Israel. As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country.”
“In fact, in the past the U.S. did this to an Israeli member of Knesset, as well as to other public figures from around the world. Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress,” he added.
Netanyahu said that Tlaib’s humanitarian request would be considered by the minister of interior “on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.”
Tlaib has not publicly reacted to authorities granting her request to visit her family.
She had posted a picture of her grandmother on Twitter after the ban was announced, writing: “This woman right here is my sity. She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”