14:34 GMT +312 December 2019
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    In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.

    Objections to Omar, Tlaib Israel Trip Follow GOP Strategy to Split Democrats Over BDS

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    Under pressure from US President Donald Trump, the Israeli government on Thursday denied entry into the country for Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) because of their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

    The Israeli government’s denial of Tlaib and Omar is is part of Trump’s strategy to portray the Democratic Party as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic, writer and political analyst Mitchell Plitnick told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary Friday. 

    Trump tweeted on Thursday that Israel would “show great weakness” if it allowed Omar and Tlaib, both Muslim and critics of the Israeli government, to make a planned visit to the country.

    ​Israel's Interior Ministry on Friday announced that it would let Tlaib in on “humanitarian grounds” to visit her grandmother living in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Fouqa in the northern West Bank, reversing its previous decision to bar her, Sputnik reported. However, the congresswoman then withdrew her request, disapproving of the stringent demands made of her if she accepted.

    “By today, we have seen a lot of criticism of Trump, not that he called for Israel barring Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar, but that he clearly caused this to happen,” Plitnick told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. “He has actually been lobbying [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for at least the last week on this. But what was interesting is when Israel actually reversed its decision, all of the initial statements from Democrats and Jewish organizations - that were critical of the decision - all criticized Netanyahu, not Trump. They criticized Trump for his call, but they didn’t say that Trump actually made this happen. That has changed in the interim.”

    “It’s a spit in the face to a Congress that is giving Israel $4 billion a year in aid,” he said. “Even AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] came out against this.” 

    "We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand," the pro-Israel lobbying group tweeted Thursday.

    “This was really all part of a strategy Trump and much of the Republican Party has been pursuing over the last few months, which is to raise the idea that the Democrats are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic and to use that to split the party between its centrist elements and its more progressive elements that support Palestinian rights. This is all part of that strategy. This is why Trump did it,” Plitnick told Sputnik.

    “[Netanyahu’s] opponents will say this: ‘Netanyahu is hurting our long-term bipartisan relationship with the US for his own short-term interest for his relationship with Trump.’ That’s true, but I think anybody who is supporting Netanyahu already knows that … Netanyahu has been doing things like this for a long time,” Plitnick explained.

    According to Plitnick, the Tlaib-Omar controversy that has flooded Israeli headlines may simply be a ploy to distract people from a series of corruption allegations against Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, including charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

    “The actual decision to bar not just these congresswomen, but anyone on the basis of the BDS law, is officially made by the Israeli Minister of the Interior … Deri is a convicted felon; he’s been in prison in the past for corruption. He made something of a miraculous comeback. Just yesterday, by a chance coincidence, a state attorney submitted to the attorney general of Israel a recommendation that Deri be indicted once again for corruption, breach of public trust and fraud … I think this [the Tlaib-Omar controversy] was to serve as a distraction,” Plitnick explained.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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