Israel’s interior ministry announced Friday that it would allow Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to enter the country as a private citizen to visit her aging grandmother, reversing an earlier decision to bar her amid pressure from President Trump.
The about-face on Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian immigrants to the U.S. and who has close relatives in the West Bank, came hours after Israel banned her and fellow Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., apparently in response pressure from Trump, who tweeted that the two hated “Israel & all Jewish people” and that Israel “would show great weakness” by letting them visit.
On Friday, however, Israel’s interior ministry said Minister Aryeh Deri had decided to allow Tlaib to conduct a “humanitarian visit” to her 90-year-old grandmother. According to the statement, Tlaib sent a letter to Deri accepting conditions and limits on her visit and promising not to advance boycotts against Israel while she is there.
There was no word on whether Israel had changed its position on Omar, a Somali-born American. She had been scheduled to arrive on Saturday in Israel, where she and Tlaib planned to tour the West Bank and visit the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Tlaib and Omar were to have traveled under the auspices of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy, or MIFTAH, a Ramallah-based non-governmental organization promoting an independent Palestinian state.
Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a lengthy statement that the trip of the congresswomen sought to “harm Israel and increase incitement against it.” Israel initially barred their visit on the basis of a law that allows authorities to ban advocates of a Palestinian-led movement to boycott Israel.
The move elicited a strong backlash from individuals in both parties. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the move “deeply disappointing.” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that while he disagreed “100% with Rep. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel” denying them entry to Israel “is a mistake.”
Even AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group, tweeted that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”