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Israel backtracks to allow Rashida Tlaib enter the country, but how can it block US congresswomen?

As it stands, Democrat Ilhan Omar has still been denied entry into the country.

US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
Image: Carol Guzy/PA Images

THERE WAS A strong reaction to the decision by Israel to deny entry into the country to two US congresswomen, Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Nancy Pelosi called it “beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel” while presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called it “an outrage”.

Sanders even stated that if Israel declines entry to two elected US officials it should also “respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel”.

Elizabeth Warren, another presidential candidate, called the decision “shameful” and “unprecedented”.

On the other side of the divide, US President Donald Trump was practically gleeful, tweeting: “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!”

Israel has today backtracked in the case of one of the women, Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, saying she would be allowed enter on “humanitarian” grounds.

The country’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri decided to allow Tlaib to make a “humanitarian visit to her grandmother” in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after the lawmaker had sent him a written pledge “to respect conditions imposed by Israel”.

Trump had yesterday said Israel would “show weakness” if it allowed entry to the two congresswomen. Israel’s ex-ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon said yesterday that his government had “rightfully decided to accept that recommendation” from Trump.

It therefore seems clear that the decision to refuse the congresswoman entry into Israel was influenced by Trump.

But how can Israel legally refuse entry to the two women?

It’s all down to a law that was passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government in 2017.

Memorial Ceremony for the fallen of the Second Lebanon War Source: DPA/PA Images

The law allows the country to block entry to any foreign person who supports an economic boycott of the country.

Similar to the ongoing debate in Ireland over the Occupied Territories Billand the push to boycott some Israeli goods, Omar and Tlaib support a simialr campaign in the US.

It it is known in the US as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Speaking about the decision yesterday, Netanyahu stated that Israel “is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception”.

Namely, he said, “people who call and act to boycott Israel”.

Israel’s 2017 law did not provoke as much international criticism as others passed by Israel in recent years, such as the law which defined Israel as a state of the Jewish people, but its backers have provoked controversy in the past.

The bill was co-sponsored by Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who was also the driver behind laws allowing the appropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settler outposts.

Smotrich sparked anger in 2016 when he said he would not want his wife to give birth in a hospital next to Arab mothers

Defending the 2017 law, Smotrich said at the time: “Preventing B.D.S. supporters who come here to hurt us from the inside is the very least we should be doing against haters of Israel.”

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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