Israel said it will allow BDS-supporting US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to enter the country, in a departure from its travel ban on supporters of the pro-Palestinian movement.
“Out of respect for Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to pro-BDS congresswomen,” Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, said.
The congresswomen are scheduled to make an official visit to Israel and the West Bank in August, and there was uncertainty around whether they would be turned away at the airport due to the 2017 law Israel passed that bans anyone who “makes a public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control,” in reference to the settlements built in the West Bank.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry can grant exemptions as a denied entry could affect Israel’s foreign relations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces elections in September, was urged by some to ban the women from entering, but the optics of barring the first two Muslim US congresswomen and a Palestinian American could tarnish Israel’s international reputation.
Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian, came up with the idea for a congressional trip to Israel and the West Bank as an alternative to the annual trips run by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby group, which will take place in August. Omar said earlier this month she would visit along with Tlaib.