Israel has done a good job of staying out of partisan divides in U.S. politics until recently, mindful that it needs the goodwill of members of both parties of its most important ally.
It’s troubling that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave in to pressure from President Donald Trump and reversed an earlier decision by his Interior Ministry. For the first time, Israel has blocked entry by two U.S. member of Congress, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
It’s a serious miscalculation on Israel’s part, even though it later said it would grant Tlaib access to visit relatives in the West Bank — an invitation the congresswoman rejected, saying there were too many conditions.
Trump has made little secret of his desire to denigrate the two Democratic, Muslim women of color, who are among his most outspoken critics. But his efforts to enlist a foreign ally to further that aim should shock all Americans.
That Omar and Tlaib have expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that seeks to end what it terms Israel’s oppression of Palestinian people within its borders should not be a factor. The Star Tribune Editorial Board does not support BDS, but there is reason for concern about the treatment of Palestinians. Israel, for its part, should welcome the opportunity to reach out to critics and make its case.
This also sets a disturbing precedent that Americans should wholeheartedly reject. We must ask ourselves, will Israel apply this standard to other members of Congress? Will other countries be emboldened to follow suit?
U.S. global standing has taken a beating under Trump. We are locked in a trade war with what had been a top trading partner, and on the outs with historic allies who are continually berated by this president. Now a country the U.S. has supported since its inception, to the tune of $142 billion in military and economic aid, sees fit to ban two members of Congress.
Trump has no higher aim in all this than striking back at his critics. Israel must look beyond that and reverse this decision.