08:07 GMT +319 September 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.

    Ilhan Omar Says US Should Reconsider Aid to Israel

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    Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said Monday that US aid to Israel should be tied to its treatment of Palestinians after the country blocked her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting.

    Omar, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had planned to travel with Tlaib to Israel this month until the Israeli government announced last week that it would deny them both entry, citing their past criticism of the country.

    Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, held a joint press conference on Monday to denounce that decision, which came after US President Donald Trump tweeted that it would show "great weakness" for Israel to allow the two lawmakers into the country.

    "We give Israel more than $3 [billion] in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East. But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy," Omar said at the press conference in St. Paul, Minn.

    Omar called on fellow lawmakers to visit the country to conduct congressional oversight.

    "It is my belief that, as legislators, we have an obligation to see the reality there for ourselves. We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government's foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid. So I would encourage my colleagues to visit," Omar said.  

    The Netanyahu government said it would still allow Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, to enter the country to visit her grandmother if she filed a humanitarian request. Tlaib initially filed a request and said that she would not vocalize her support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel while in the region, yet reversed course a day later after speaking with her family, recounting how her grandmother refers to Tlaib as “her free bird.”

    Israel is one of the biggest recipients of US foreign aid, according to the Congressional Research Service. The US and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year memorandum of understanding in 2016, with the US pledging to provide $38 billion in military aid to Israel that runs through fiscal year 2028.


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