CNN Pundits Pile on Israel for Banning Omar, Tlaib

CNN's John King began his Inside Politics program on Thursday by lamenting Israel's refusal to admit leftist Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar as "unprecedented" and contrary to democratic ideals. 

After briefly going through why Tlaib and Omar were denied entry into Israel, including their history of unspecified "anti-Semitic sentiments" and "a planned visit by the congresswoman to the Al-Aqsa Mosque... that that also sits on the Temple Mount," King went to CNN correspondent Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, who called the decision "unprecedented."

Lieberman said that Trump dictated to Prime Minister Netanyahu his preference that "you shouldn't allow these two in" and that it was also unprecedented for Israel to bar two sitting members of Congress from entering the country. After making a passing mention of Netanyahu accusing "them of trying to damage Israel in their trip. As an example said the listed destination of their journey was not Israel, it was Palestine," Liebermann theorized that this was a move by Netanyahu to fire up "his right-wing voter base as he has a tough re-election campaign" after making passing mention of the official reason. 

 

 

Back in the studio, King declared that, "Yes, they have said quite controversial things. But this country gives billions of dollars in economic and military aid to Israel. It is supposed to be two democracies that are willing to air their differences and have their debates." King did not give context to those specific "things" which include everything from charges of dual loyalty, hypnotism, anti-Semitic ideas about Jewish money, and revisionist history about the Holocaust.

While, U.S. economic aid to Israel is well short of "billions of dollars," CNN focusing in on Trump's tweets misses the point. Liebermann's of Tlaib and Omar's itinerary mentioning "Palestine" as their destination is far more important than any presidential tweet and should have gotten more attention. The only people who think that Tel Aviv is part of "Palestine" are people who don't think Israel has a right to exist and the two congresswomen support a movement that has that as its goal. The Palestinian group hosting their tour has shown sympathies to terrorists. 

The "unprecedented" nature of Trump's tweets is quite beside the point if for no other reason than because the Twitter-era of politics is relatively new. It is not uncommon for democracies to ban politicians as well, such as when the U.S. banned Knesset member Michael Ben Ari in a 2012 move that led to the Speaker of the Knesset protesting to the U.S. Ambassador. Narendra Modi was only allowed into the U.S. in 2014 when he became Prime Minister of India.

Israel was in a no-win situation. Either let Tlaib and Omar in so they propagandize and scheme against your country while they refuse to meet with any Israeli government or opposition leaders... or ban them where they will propagandize and scheme against your country anyway. In either case, the leftists count on having members of the American media, including but not limited to John King, say a ban raises questions on your commitment to democracy.

Here is a transcript for the August 15 show:

CNN

Inside Politics

12:01 PM ET

JOHN KING: Back to 2020 in a moment. But we begin the hour with a big and dramatic move today by Israel. A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry saying the country will forbid two sitting U.S. Congresswomen from traveling there, the two congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib both have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments on multiple occasions and support a movement to boycott Israel. That is one big point of contention anyway, but the timing is what exacerbates things here. Israel has elections just around the corner. Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to hold power. Add in a planned visit by the congresswoman to the Al-Aqsa Mosque sacred Muslim site but one that also sits on the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount long been disputed and conservative voices in Israel worry a Palestinian escort to the religious landmarks might be seen by some as legitimizing Palestinian claims to the site.

The other big factor, though, the President of the United States. President trump tweeting just earlier today Israel letting Omar and Tlaib in would, quote, “show great weakness.” CNN’s Oren Liebermann is live for us in Jerusalem as this plays out, Oren, this is a big decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government. Why? 

OREN LIEBERMANN: Unprecedented for a number of reasons. First, we've never seen President Donald Trump dictate what Israel's foreign policy should be in quite this way, essentially telling Israel you shouldn't allow these two in. And then a short time after that, we got the official decision of the Israeli government from a spokesman for the deputy foreign minister, but since then the interior minister and of course Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have confirmed that, saying they have decided to ban these two congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting. That is also unprecedented that Israel would not allow a sitting U.S. Congressperson into the country. 

And in his statement, Netanyahu seemed to reference that, saying that Israel has tremendous respect for not only the United States but also for the American Congress, but then he went on to try to explain his decision saying Israel cannot allow these two to enter the country because of their support for a boycott of Israel. He accused them of trying to damage Israel in their trip. As an example said the listed destination of their journey was not Israel, it was Palestine. For those reasons Netanyahu decided to ban along with some of the other Israel officials their entry into the country which was scheduled to start just tomorrow. Again, there was no statement on when this decision was made but it was certainly announced right after Trump's tweet saying Israel would be showing great weakness by allowing them in. So this decision after a day of contemplation has been set, John. You're absolutely right to point out the political considerations here, which you did just a short time ago. Netanyahu has an election he's facing. This may sit well with his right-wing voter base as he has a tough re-election campaign. The bigger risk though, has he just created an even greater fracture between Israel and the Democratic Party. 

KING: That’s a fascinating moment, Oren Liebermann, we'll stay in touch as the elections play out in the days ahead, we’ll keep watching that. With me here in Washington to share their reporting and their insights, Eliana Johnson of Politico, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Matt Viser with the Washington Post, and Laura Barron-Lopez with Politico. Let's start here in the sense that it is unprecedented for a president to tweet at a foreign government do not let democratically elected members of Congress come and visit. Yes, they have said quite controversial things. But this country gives billions of dollars in economic and military aid to Israel. It is supposed to be two democracies that are willing to air their differences and have their debates. What does it say that the President of the United States would decide, you know what, I'm essentially going to tell, using Twitter, my friend Bibi don't do this. 

NB Daily Foreign Policy Middle East Israel/Palestine CNN Inside Politics Video John King Rashida Tlaib Ilhan Omar Donald Trump Benjamin Netanyahu
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