In the July 25 edition of the Queens Jewish Link, in an article entitled “Building Up the Squad,” I wrote:
“Trump is building up the “Squad” for his own political purposes, while the women are self-promoting themselves. In other words, Trump and the “Squad” are on the same side when it relates to them becoming more important and powerful members in the Democratic Party. Also, Trump, by his over-the-top comments, is making these women into sympathetic figures.
“I do not think that it is mere coincidence that Omar has announced that she plans to visit Israel, and Rashid is more vocal in addressing anti-BDS legislation. These women are now emboldened by Trump’s attack. Israel’s government is in a Catch-22 situation with Omar. If they keep her out, it is going to be a public relations nightmare. The anti-Israel crowd will argue that this is an example of Israel’s racist conduct if it does not allow a sitting United States member of Congress to visit. On the other hand, if they let her into the country, I expect she is going to go to places in an attempt to claim that Israel is harming the Palestinians and the Ethiopians. She will receive extensive news coverage.”
Unfortunately, my fears have come true, with the debacle of the Israeli government not allowing them into the country. The government was planning to let them in despite behind-the-scenes pressure from President Trump. Then the president tweeted: “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!” Within a few hours, the Israeli foreign minister stated publicly that they would not be allowed into the country because of their support for BDS, and Netanyahu agreed.
If the Israeli government had announced the move before Trump had tweeted, that would have been bad enough. They could have at least argued that it was nonpartisan, and they were doing it because of Omar’s and Rashid’s attacks on Israel and their support of BDS. The government could have pointed out that they are allowing other members of Congress, including Democrats, to visit.
When the decision came out a few hours after Trump’s tweet, the perception was that Israel caved into pressure from the president. They did not want to get the wrath of Trump. President Trump wanted this flare-up because he knew that fellow Democratic members of Congress would come to their defense. This way, he could use this to argue that they are the face of the Democratic Party as he had previously done.
Israel is a big loser here. This will give strength to those who are BDS supporters and others who are against the State of Israel. It has also been seen by many in Congress, including supporters of Israel, as a slap in the face by Israel to a legislative body who gives them billions of dollars in aid and recently supported a bill condemning BDS. Israel had the chance to take the high road and let them have their PR meeting. That is what democracies do. You let your critics have the right to speak out.
Even Jewish organizations such as AIPAC said it was a bad idea. It makes those who lobby for Israel’s job even harder. Prime Minster Netanyahu has let the president make support of Israel into a partisan issue.
This is what happens when leaders are more interested in doing what is best for their own political fortunes than what is best for the country.
There was some mitigation. After Israel did not let them in, Tlaib asked that she be allowed into the country to see her grandmother; she agreed that, while there, she would not mention anything about her support of BDS. Israel agreed to her request on humanitarian grounds.
This was the perfect compromise. Also, both sides look good. Tlaib put family over politics. Israel can say that they allowed her in. There was nothing that stopped Tlaib from making any comment she wanted when she returned or her family members from saying anything when she was there.
Of course, in these times, compromise is a dirty word. Therefore, Tlaib was forced to back off by others in the BDS movement, so she switched her position and refused to go. At least in one respect, Israel came off looking better than the other side.
Both Trump and the “Squad” have an interest in keeping this in the news, which is bad for Israel. I just hope that this incident will not have any long-term effect on the special relationship between Israel and the United States of America.