Israel made a mistake in denying Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) the opportunity to visit.
First, it was disrespectful to the U.S. Congress, which has been a consistently stalwart friend of Israel. Setting aside the foreign policy views of these two congresswomen, U.S. congressional delegations should not be denied entry anywhere. Period.
Second, Israel made a political mistake that will reverberate within the United States’ domestic political environment with unintended consequences. The best thing that could happen for friends of Israel is to let these two congresswomen go to Israel and talk — not despite their views but because of them. Only by listening to what they have to say can the truth behind their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric be revealed. By denying them entry, Israel has turned its U.S. opponents into martyrs and distracted attention from their wrongheaded views rather than bringing them out into the open. I was actually looking forward to their trip, thinking it was going to produce a real headache for Democrats.
The Democratic Party has a troubling strain of anti-Semitism running through it in greater force than at any other time in my memory. Britain’s Labour Party has a similar problem right now, but U.S.-Israeli ties are so tight that it is a bigger problem in Washington. But Israel’s shortsighted move allows the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to score points by defending this half of “the Squad” instead of being on the defensive for the wild things they may have otherwise said during their visit to Israel. I am sure all of the candidates who hope to be President Trump’s opponent in November 2020 are breathing a sigh of relief.
Denying Omar and Tlaib a platform to visit the country they have both maligned was a mistake. It did them a service, not Israel. Israel should reconsider this decision if for no other reason than for the sake of its defenders in the United States. The vibrant, strong and democratic society that it is can easily afford the misguided showboating of a couple of members of Congress. In fact, it would remind us how much our countries should, and do, have in common.