Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) will touch down in Israel on Friday, leading a tour dedicated to showing support for Palestinians and meeting various Palestinian leaders.
The U.S. House members, who have been widely known for their criticism of Israel and affinity for the BDS movement, as well as outright anti-Semitic rhetoric, plan to visit Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, where they will meet with Palestinian Arabs and discuss Israel’s security fence.
They may also be preparing to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel’s Channel 13 news reported that Israeli officials would want such an event to be conducted without Palestinian Authority officials, so as not to lend support to P.A. claims to the holy site. Axios reported last week that Israel’s deputy national security adviser, Reuven Azar, held a classified interagency meeting to prepare for the congresswomen’s visit.
According to a report in Israel Hayom, Tlaib, who was born in Michigan and is a descendant of an Arab grandmother living in a P.A.-controlled town near Ramallah, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday, but advanced her trip “in order to mislead Israeli authorities.”
She sent “You are invited” notices to colleagues in May, inviting them to participate in her “Congressional Delegation to Occupied Territories in Palestine” from Aug. 17 (Saturday) to Aug. 22.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem have no official information regarding the visit, while the P.A. offices in Ramallah refused to provide information about any meetings planned involving the congresswomen.
A third, unnamed congressperson is reportedly joining Tlaib and Omar.
The Humpty Dumpty Institute, an organization Tlaib referenced as supporting the tour, backed out. An organization called Forum for Cultural Engagement (FCE) is the new sponsor of the trip, according to a July interview with Tlaib in The Detroit News.
FCE is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Yale University, Pfizer and NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as several Israel and P.A.-based groups, including the King Abdullah Cultural Center in Saudi Arabia, UNRWA School for Girls and Al-Najah University in Nablus.
Israel passed a law in 2017 requiring the Interior Ministry to block foreign nations who support boycotts against the Jewish state from entering the country. However, governmental officials decided to allow Omar and Tlaib, out of respect for the U.S. Congress.
Nevertheless, reports on Thursday morning indicated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was weighing the possibility of preventing the visit after meeting with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Channel 13 over the weekend reported that U.S. President Donald Trump, who has publicly opposed Omar and Tlaib, wanted Israel to bar them from the country.
Both U.S. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), have urged Israel to admit the congresswomen.