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Israel says to allow in barred US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for 'humanitarian' visit

Israel is to allow a visit by barred US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who is of Palestinian origin on "humanitarian" grounds, the interior ministry announced Friday.

It said 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 Israeli government.

“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,” Ynet, the online portal for Israel’s largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, quoted the letter as saying.

“This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” it added.

According to Hebrew media reports on Friday, the Israeli embassy in Washington has been in touch with Tlaib’s team and could allow her to visit as early as Sunday if she signs a document agreeing to a series of restrictions, including committing to refrain from promoting a boycott of Israel during her stay.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Thursday barred two members of the United States Congress from entering Israel, reversing a previous decision to admit two of the president’s most outspoken critics. But on Friday, Israel said that one of the congresswomen, Representative Rashida Tlaib, could enter on humanitarian grounds so that she could see her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank.

In initially blocking the visits of the two Democratic congresswomen — Representatives Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — who are both Muslim, Mr. Netanyahu cited their support for boycotting Israel, acceding to the wishes of the American president, who declared on Twitter shortly before Israel’s announcement that letting them in would “show great weakness.”

The move not only inflamed the politics of both countries, it joined Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu even more closely as partners against their mutual adversaries as the prime minister faces a critical election next month.

Speaking with reporters before flying to Manchester, N.H., for a rally, Mr. Trump would not say whether he spoke directly with Mr. Netanyahu about the matter but acknowledged that he “did speak with people” privately even before tweeting about it.

The congresswomen are vocal supporters of the Palestinians and the movement called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S.

The president has repeatedly attacked them, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, at one point demanding that they “go back” to their home countries, even though they are all American citizens.

Israel’s decision was criticized not only by Democrats but also by some top Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, also said it was a mistake.

In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel respects Congress but defended the decision. “As a free and vibrant democracy,” he said, “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 prevent the entry of people believed to be damaging to the country.”

Tlaib on Thursday panned the Israeli government for its decision, saying that preventing her from visiting her grandmother in the West Bank was a “sign of weakness” because “the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”

Omar likened Israel’s decision to ban her and Tlaib to Trump’s Muslim ban.

In a statement Thursday, Omar called Israel’s decision “chilling,” saying denying entry to sitting members of the US Congress was an “insult to democratic values.”

“Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress,” she said, referring to the president’s executive orders to restrict entry to citizens of certain predominantly Muslim countries.



With additional reporting from NYT and The Guardian

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