Israel Has Every Right to Bar Reps. Omar, Tlaib, but It’s a ‘Tactical Error,’ Expert Says

August 15, 2019 Updated: August 16, 2019

Israel can bar U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting, but doing so is a “tactical error,” a Middle Eastern expert said.

Shortly after Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, officially announced that the country is barring Omar and Tlaib, Dr. Emily Landau told The Epoch Times that the ban isn’t a good idea, noting the women are elected members of Congress.

“Regardless of their very negative messages, it doesn’t help Israel to ban them from coming in. It just puts the spotlight on them, it shows Israel is being rejectionist, it plays into their agenda,” said Landau, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

“A much better idea tactically would have been to get the exact dates of their visit, to prepare it from the Israeli side, to prepare a detailed agenda for their trip to Israel, including meetings with high-level people … and all the usual landmarks in Israel that high-level visitors to our country are taken to,” she said, noting that a group of 72 bipartisan members of Congress, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was in Israel recently to take such a tour.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), left, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) attend a news conference in Washington on March 13, 2019. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The itinerary could have been prepared and made public, placing the ball in the Democrats’ court.

“Then their reaction would have been the talk of the day rather than Israel banning their entry into the country,” Landau said on Aug. 15.

Instead, the congresswomen will reap positive press from their ban and possibly board a plane to Israel regardless of the ban, unless the United States doesn’t let them on a flight.

The decision to ban came about a month after Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said Israel would let Omar and Tlaib into the country.

Omar initially announced the planned trip in early July.

Landau isn’t sure why the Israeli government reversed the decision, citing pressure from President Donald Trump, and fear that the lawmakers would go to the Temple Mount, as possibilities. Either way, “Israel went to its fallback position, ‘We’re allowed to decide who comes and who doesn’t come.'”

People run for cover from sound grenades fired by Israeli security forces outside the Dome of the Rock mosque, known by Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Aug. 11, 2019. Clashes broke out at the site, which both Jews and Muslims consider sacred. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Landau’s critique of the Israeli government comes from someone who believes Omar and Tlaib have displayed their hatred for Israel.

“These two congresswomen are extremely anti-Israel, their rhetoric is filled with hatred towards Israel,” she said. “I get the sense that they lack basic knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process. I don’t think they understand that BDS is not about a two-state solution.”

Video footage of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions effort shows them saying they want a one-state solution, and that the state would be “Palestine.”

“It’s a total rejection of Israel, it’s not about two states, it’s not about ending the occupation,” Landau said. “It’s about eliminating Israel.”

The criticism from many Israelis of Omar and Tlaib isn’t related to the color of their skin or the fact that they’re Muslims, Landau said.

“It’s not related to that, it’s related to the positions they’re taking. … It’s related to the words coming out of their mouths,” she said.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely at a press conference in a file photograph. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Countries Routinely Deny Visas’

The ban has generated criticism from others, including former officials in the Obama administration.

“Original Israeli decision to allow Tlaib/Omar visit was wise. Reversal makes little sense. I disagree with their stands on Israel, have criticized them. But zero harm in letting them come learn, see (even if they had an agenda). Reversal harms Israel’s standing in US, boosts BDS,”  Daniel Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote in a Twitter post.

Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and professor at George Mason University in Washington, said that the apparent outrage by some over the decision doesn’t align with previous decisions by the United States.

He argued on Twitter that the decision to bar the lawmakers “is legitimate and understandable.”

“Countries routinely deny visas to those with extremist views. The US excludes people for ideologies fundamentally hostile to US (ie communism); the UK and others deny entry to public figures with bigoted views as being ‘not conducive to the public good.’ Omar/Tlaib qualify,” he said.

In an emailed statement to The Epoch Times, Kontorovich wrote: “The U.S. itself has barred democratically elected Israeli legislators under the Obama Administration; indeed even Indian leader Modi was once banned from the U.S. So the current mock outrage and disingenuous claims that this is not how allies treat each other is really just another double standard against Israel.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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