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Keep Israel’s door open: Netanyahu should say no to Trump and grant entry to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

2019-08-16

Tlaib and Omar are no threat to Israel, let them in. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Old pals Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu want to help Israel while freshmen Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are harsh critics of the Jewish state. Yet Don and Bibi handed Omar and Tlaib a huge propaganda victory in teaming up to bar the duo from Israel. It was a mistake and Netanyahu should reverse himself and let these members in, no matter how odious their views of Israel.

Israel has nothing to hide from Omar and Tlaib and nothing to be embarrassed about. If the president and the prime minister thought that they were hurting the pair of lefties, it backfired, turning the women into victims, or even martyrs.

Just returned from Israel are 72 House members, 41 Democrats, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and 31 Republicans, among them Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. That is the actual level of support Israel enjoys in Congress. Omar and Tlaib were planning their own little trip, which the Israeli government was permitting until Netanyahu abruptly canceled on the pretense that they endorse the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. They are dead wrong about BDS and Omar has repeatedly spouted classic anti-Semitism, but neither of those reasons should keep them from landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

Netanyahu only shut them out because Trump pushed him for the president’s own political game, escalating his fight with the two women — half of the foursome Squad — which excites his base.

Facing his own tough redo reelection on Sept. 17 after an inconclusive April vote, Netanyahu wants to appear tough and to please Trump. And so when Trump goaded Netanyahu, privately and then publicly, into forbidding Omar and Tlaib from visiting, the prime minister complied, breaking with Israel’s open democratic society. That Trump also broke diplomatic protocol and the American tradition of not mixing domestic politics and foreign policy shouldn’t surprise.

The move against Omar and Tlaib sullies Israel as it bolsters Omar and Tlaib. It may even hurt Netanyahu’s election chances. But Trump thinks it helps Trump. So Israel and Netanyahu be dammed. Donald Trump, as always, is only about Donald Trump.