Israel to allow barred US lawmaker for ‘humanitarian’ West Bank visit

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel said it will allow barred United States (US) congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who is of Palestinian origin to visit her elderly grandmother in the occupied West Bank, following a pledge she would respect its conditions yesterday.

The decision taken by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri came a day after a controversial Israeli announcement that it would bar a planned weekend visit by Tlaib and fellow Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar over their support of a boycott of the Jewish state for its treatment of the Palestinians.

The decision to allow a “humanitarian visit” followed a pledge in a letter from the lawmaker to “respect conditions imposed by Israel”, the ministry said in a statement.

Tlaib had “promised not to promote the cause of the boycott of Israel during her stay”, in the letter sent overnight, it said.

Israeli media published the letter, which said, “I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s. This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”

The decision to bar the congresswomen drew sharp criticism in the US from several allies of Israel, including top Democratic lawmakers, presidential hopefuls and influential pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Israeli officials had, however, said they would consider a separate humanitarian request from Tlaib to visit her family, a trip for which she would have to pass through Israel.

Before Israel announced its decision on Thursday, Tlaib’s relatives in the West Bank village of Beit Ur Al-Foqa had been excitedly preparing her visit.

Israel scrapped the visit by the two lawmakers shortly after Trump weighed in via Twitter to say it would be showing “great weakness” if the Jewish state granted them entry.

The US President later told reporters that the lawmakers had “said some of the worst things I’ve ever heard said about Israel. So how can Israel say: ‘Welcome’?”

Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of Trump, who has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.