House leaders: Tlaib and Omar should be allowed to visit Israel

Steny Hoyer and Kevin McCarthy say Muslim congresswomen should be permitted to visit Israel despite their criticism of it.

Ben Ariel ,

Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib hold news conference
Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib hold news conference

The US House of Representatives majority and minority leaders said in Jerusalem that Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar should be allowed to visit Israel and Palestinian Authority-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria despite their criticism of the country, JTA reported Sunday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who is leading a delegation of 41 Democratic Representatives, many of them newly elected, to Israel and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is leading 31 Republican lawmakers, met with reporters in Jerusalem Sunday morning.

The two leaders were responding to a report in Axios on Saturday which said that President Donald Trump told advisers he thinks Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should use Israel’s anti-boycott law to bar Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel.

The White House responded to the report on Saturday night, saying, “The Israeli government can do what they want. It’s fake news.”

Omar announced last month that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority and would be accompanied by Tlaib. Their visit is scheduled for August 18.

Israel could have prevented their entry in light of a 2017 law which allows Israeli officials to ban supporters of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but Israel’s Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, said the two women would be permitted entry out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.

“I do not know that the president was unhappy; I speak to him everyday,” McCarthy said in Jerusalem on Sunday, according to JTA.

“Anyone who comes with open ears, open eyes and an open mind will walk away with understanding, just as all these members here do … I think all should come,” he added.