Democratic congresswoman rejects Israel’s offer to enter West Bank

Rashia Tlaib says ‘oppressive conditions’ were imposed to humiliate her on family visit

US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has decided not to visit her elderly grandmother in the West Bank, even though Israel agreed to her request to do so.

The latest developments came a day after Israel denied her entry, together with fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar, for what was termed a "fact-finding" mission.

Ms Tlaib, the Palestinian-American who represents Minnesota for the Democrats, then submitted a written request to be allowed to visit her grandmother, who she said is in her 90s,in the small West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa,

“This could be my last opportunity to see her,” she wrote, promising to “respect any restrictions and not promote boycotts against Israel” during her visit.

After Israel agreed, she said that she would not “bow down” to what she termed Israel’s oppressive and racist policies.

“Silencing me and treating me like a criminal is not what my grandmother wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in – fighting against racism, oppression and injustice.”

Israel’s interior minister Arieh Deri tweeted that Ms Tlaib had exposed her true motives.

“Apparently her request was a provocation to make Israel look bad. Her hatred for Israel is greater than her love for her grandmother.”

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel had responded positively to the humanitarian request from Ms Tlaib to visit her relatives, and he defended the decision to prevent the original fact-finding mission.

“As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm their country,” he said. “Their itinerary revealed a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.

Sanders warning

Meanwhile, criticism in the US Democratic Party continued over Israel’s ban on the congresswomen’s fact-finding mission. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sent a warning to Israel.

"If Israel bars members of Congress, maybe it can also decline the billions of dollars that we send it," the Jewish senator said in an interview with MSNBC.

Nahum Barnea, veteran commentator for the Yediot Aharonot newspaper, said Mr Netanyahu had capitulated to pressure from US president Donald Trump, who had urged him to block the congresswomen's visit.

“The main problem is the absolute identification between Israel and the Trump administration, the crowns that Netanyahu places on Trump’s head; all this is in polar contrast of how Israel behaved toward Obama the Democrat. Anyone who is opposed to Trump is finding it more and more difficult to support Israel.”

Meanwhile, two Israeli teenagers, a brother and sister, were hurt on Friday when a Palestinian driver rammed his car into them close to a West Bank bus stop, near Bethlehem. The driver was shot dead by an off-duty policeman. The teenagers were rushed to a Jerusalem hospital where the condition of the boy was described as life-threatening.