The much-touted shared values between the U.S. and Israel no longer seem to include liberal protections for free speech.
By Debra Shushan, director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now
The U.S.-Israel relationship suffered a profound setback Thursday. Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri confirmed that Israel would bar two members of Congress, Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, from entering Israel because of their support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions on Israel.
Thursday’s decision to deny Tlaib and Omar entrance to Israel reversed the earlier position expressed by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, who in July said that “Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.”
With Netanyahu surpassing the country’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, as Israel’s longest-serving leader, Israel’s democracy is in a state of perilous decline.
The policy Dermer articulated should be expected of a U.S. ally that is also the top recipient of U.S. foreign aid ($38 billion in security assistance over 10 years). Overturning that policy can only be interpreted as a sign of disrespect for the U.S. representatives democratically elected by American voters. Worse yet, with President Donald Trump pushing the change, it also demonstrates the disrespect for democratic institutions both country’s leaders are increasingly embracing — and their willingness to turn the U.S.-Israel relationship into a political football to advance their own interests.