ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib hosted a press conference Monday to condemn the Israeli government’s decision to bar the congresswomen from their official visit to Israel, which was scheduled to begin today.
Omar began the conference by saying the two congresswomen planned to meet with Israeli representatives, security and the United Nations while in the country, contrary to a statement released by President Benjamin Netanyahu from last week that said the two did not plan to visit Israel.
Omar added that this trip was similar to another official U.S. visit by members of congress in 2016.
She called her barring “an attempt by an ally of the U.S. to suppress our ability to do our jobs."
Omar went on to criticize the aid the U.S. provides Israel every year, which amounts to $3 million.
“This is predicated on being an important ally in the region and being the only democracy in the Middle East,” she said. “Denying someone the freedom of movement is not consistent with being a democracy.”
As part of her speech, Omar called on Netanyahu to stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians.
Omar went on to blame President Donald Trump for pitting the Jewish and Muslim communities against each other.
“We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of occupation from us,” Omar said. “Barring members of congress from seeing it does not make it go away.”
Rep. Tlaib speaks out
In her speech, Tlaib spoke about her personal experience in Palestine, as her grandmother still lives there.
She cried when talking about her mother having to go through “dehumanizing checkpoints” in Israel despite being an American.
She condemned Israel for putting conditions on her potential visit and added that their Israeli trip was to include Israeli military veterans.
“It is unfortunate that President Netanyahu has taken a page out of Trump’s book,” Tlaib said.
The congresswomen also gave time for other Minnesotans to talk about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected their lives, including a Palestinian-American who has never been able to return to her family’s home in Palestine and Jewish-American Minnesota resident.
In a statement last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Omar and Tlaib were violating Israeli law prohibiting “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.”
Netanyahu said the congresswomen’s itinerary showed their “sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”
He said the destination for their trip is Palestine and not Israel and that they did not request to meet with any Israeli officials.
“The itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it,” Netanyahu said in the statement.
Here is Netanyahu’s full 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 US 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.
Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.
For instance: they listed the destination of their trip as Palestine and not Israel, and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition.
A week ago, Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in Congress.
However, the itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.
In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.
Therefore, the minister of interior has decided not to allow their visit, and I, as prime minister, support his decision.
Nonetheless, if Congresswoman Tlaib submits a humanitarian request to visit her relatives, the minister of interior has announced that he will consider her request on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.