Reuven Rivlin
Reuven Rivlin Israel news photo: Flash 90

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has barred three women Knesset Members from traveling to a Congressional conference in retaliation for the U.S. State Department’s refusal to grant an entrance visa to National Union Knesset Member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari.

MK Ben-Ari has said that conversations with the American embassy on a visa "time and time again focus on whether I am affiliated with Kach” and his friendship with Kach supporters Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir. The United States has officially said the visa was rejected for “fears of his safety.”

Speaker Rivlin said the ban on the Knesset Member is “unacceptable” and that three women MKs, including Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, will not be allowed to join their Congressional women counterparts for a four-day panel on women later this month. The other MKs are Zehava Gal-On of Meretz and Labor MK Einat Wilf.

The joint panel discussion was to take place at the Israeli embassy in Washington.

“The American claims that one of our Knesset members is a terrorist is not acceptable and damages the reputation and honor of the entire Knesset,” Rivlin said.

After the United States rejected a visa for MK  Ben Ari two weeks ago, Rivlin fired off a letter to U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, writing, that “MK Ben Ari serves in the Knesset as a member of the National Union party, a legitimate faction of the Israeli parliament.

“He was elected by the public and is known as a close friend  of the United States. There is no reason to prevent him from entering the United States, and he certainly is not connected with a terrorist organization.”

Reacting earlier this month to the refusal to grant him a visa, MK Ben Ari said, “The U.S. administration that welcomes with open arms Ahmadinejad, who calls for the destruction of Israel, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), who planned the murder of children at Maalot, and Ahmed Tibi, who excitedly encourages shaheeds, has chosen to block my path in meeting Jewish communities in the US and encouraging aliyah to Israel, in the claim that I am a terrorist. Now one can understand that the American blindness that does not perceive who the terrorists are, is what brought upon them the terrible terror attacks of September 11."

MK Ben Ari told Arutz Sheva, "The excuse given by American officials is pathetic. This is not because of concern for my safety, but because officials there abhor me and Rabbi Kahane….

"Strangely, MKs Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, who hobnob with known terrorists, are allowed to travel across the USA, coast to coast, but I am prevented from doing this for the same reason.”

Ahmed Tibi was once a personal adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat. Both Tibi and Zoabi have appeared in photos of celebrations held by known Hamas terrorists in recent months.  

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