US Representatives Ilhan Omar (by Kristie Boyd, U.S. House Office of Photography) and Rashida Tlaib (by United States Congress, Official Congressional Facebook page) (l. to r.) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
Israel Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, is correct to recommend welcoming a visit to Israel by House Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — the first two U.S. Muslim Congresswomen — “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great U.S.-Israel alliance.”
Israel’s high respect of both chambers and both parties in the U.S. Congress supersedes Israel’s deep reservations about the two legislators’ support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel; their identification with Palestinian and Islamic terror organizations (e.g., Muslim Brotherhood); their embrace of themes perpetrated by Palestinian hate-education, which have denied Israel’s right to exist; and their determination to weaken the 400-year-old bonds between the American people and the Jewish State, and undermine the mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation.
In fact, the worldview of these two representatives departs sharply from the vast majority of legislators on Capitol Hill, as well as those in U.S. State Legislatures, 27 of which have already adopted anti-BDS legislation. It was evident on July 23, 2019, when the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly (398:17) passed the anti-BDS House Resolution 246.
Thus, by allowing the visit, Israel displays tolerance of criticism and respect towards Congress, which has systematically enhanced the unique U.S. ties with the Jewish State and the two-way-street U.S.-Israel cooperation — sometimes in defiance of US Presidents — long before the 1948 establishment of Israel and the 1951 establishment of AIPAC. For example, in 1891 — six years before the first Zionist Congress and 57 years before the establishment of the Jewish State — the bipartisan House and Senate leadership joined some 400 Supreme Court Justices, governors, mayors, university presidents, newspaper editors, clergy, and leading businessmen in signing the Blackstone Memorial, which called for the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.
In addition, Israel is aware of the co-equal, co-determining muscle of the U.S. Legislature, as displayed when it coerced the Executive to end U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, Angola and Nicaragua, and when it overode the Administration when forcing the USSR/Russia to allow free emigration, end the support for South Africa’s Apartheid Regime, etc.
Israel realizes that tolerating criticism does not reflect vacillation, but open-mindedness and an opportunity to highlight critical data, as was the case in prior visits of U.S. legislators known for their criticism of Israel.
For example, Senator William Fulbright (AK-D, 1945-1975), the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee (a heavy-weight compared to these two freshmen Congresswomen), stated on June 9, 1967: “They [Israel] know they have control of the Senate politically, and therefore whatever the Secretary [of State] tells them, they can laugh at him….” Senator Fulbright advocated economic pressure on Israel as a means to force a retreat to the pre-1967 lines.
Senator Chuck Percy (IL-R, 1967-1985), as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, supported President Ford’s and Secretary of State Kissinger’s reassessment of their Middle East policy (opposed by 76 Senators), including the use of foreign aid and withheld arms sales as a means to force an Israeli withdrawal from parts of the Sinai Peninsula. Senator Percy considered Yasser Arafat “a moderate leader” (during the early 1980s), while criticizing Israel’s supposed “intransigence,” contending that close U.S.-Israel ties undermine U.S.-Arab relations.
At the same time, leading U.S. legislators known for their criticism of Israel have demonstrated open-mindedness, always welcoming visits to their Capitol Hill offices by Israeli leaders and diplomats, including the frequent visits of Benjamin Netanyahu to many Capitol Hill offices before becoming Israel’s top Executive.
Moreover, Senator Bob Dole (KS-R, 1961-1997) and his top staffers held many meetings with Israelis, irrespective of the Senator’s full identification with Secretary of State Jim Baker’s tough criticism and pressure of Israel; his call for a 5% cut in foreign aid to Israel; his close ties with Saddam Hussein, whom he considered an ally of the U.S. up to the day of the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait; and contending that Israel was partly responsible for the 1990 murder of Colonel Higgins by Hezbollah terrorists.
Obviously, a respectful attitude by Israel toward the U.S. public and its representatives on Capitol Hill does not preclude Israel providing a well-documented profile of the two Congresswomen’s Palestinian interlocutors (the Palestinian Authority): hate-educators in K-12 and in the mosques; subversion and terrorism against Arab regimes; long-lasting ties with anti-U.S. elements in the Middle East and beyond — all of which poses a clear and present threat to every pro-U.S. Arab regime and the U.S. itself.
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is the director of The Ettinger Report: Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.