Like Donald Trump’s other political battles, the president’s bitter war of words with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley (collectively, “The Squad”) was never really resolved. Rather, it was simply superseded by another fight.
The “Send her back” chant which erupted at a North Carolina rally on July 17 following three days of controversy surrounding the president’s highly contentious tweets aimed at the four congresswoman, marked a low point in modern American politics.
It also spooked some moderate Republicans, who began to worry that the overtly xenophobic refrain would be the new “Lock her up” and feature heavily in Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
But “The Squad” have never been far from the president’s mind. He sees his attacks on the four woman (AOC, Omar and Tlaib more so than Pressley) as a way to galvanize his base against immigrants and socialism, and although the effort appears to have backfired, Trump’s initial broadside against the foursome was aimed at exacerbating a rift between the progressive wing of the Democratic party and Nancy Pelosi.
Part and parcel of Trump’s criticism of Omar and Tlaib is a false narrative painting the two as anti-Semites. In a wild July 15 press conference, the president told reporters that Omar “hates Jews and loves al-Qaeda“, a contention so absurd and so inappropriate that the media found itself at a loss for words when it came to conveying the sheer, blatant audacity of Trump’s remarks.
In reality, Omar and Tlaib are not, of course, anti-Semites. And Omar is obviously not an al-Qaeda operative. The two woman are vocal critics of Israel (the state) however, and their public comments to that effect have made them lightning rods for Republicans.
Well, according to Axios, Trump has suggested that Benjamin Netanyahu cite Israel’s anti-BDS travel ban to block Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel. That’s according to three sources.
“Trump’s reaction came days after the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS movement, which Omar and Tlaib support”, Axios notes, adding that “Trump told confidants he disagreed with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s rationale for Israel to overlook the [anti-boycott] law to let Omar and Tlaib visit Israel”.
“I stand before you as the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel, equal treatment”, Tlaib said in January, in defense of the boycott movement.
Unlike the incorrigible Trump, the Israelis apparently decided this just wasn’t a battle worth fighting, especially if it risked a backlash from Omar and Tlaib’s senior Democratic colleagues.
“Israeli officials say congressional Democratic leadership pushed Dermer to allow the congresswomen into the country [arguing] that if the Israeli government blocked Omar and Tlaib’s entry, then other Democratic members would cancel a planned, AIPAC-sponsored Israel trip in solidarity”, Axios goes on to report.
You can understand why Netanyahu might have decided to just let it slide for the time being.
Last month, Dermer responded to Omar’s announcement that she and Tlaib would visit the country in August. “Out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel”, he said.
As Politico wrote at the time, “had Israel’s government chosen to deny the polarizing lawmakers, it would have come amid a contentious war of words between Omar, Tlaib, their fellow Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, and Trump that has dragged on for almost a week”.
In other words, it would have seemed as though Israel was attempting to intervene in American politics at a sensitive juncture. The risk-reward of such a move would have been asymmetrically skewed to the downside, as a ban on the two woman might well have served to amplify their message, whereas taking the high road came with no immediately identifiable consequences -other than disappointing Trump, that is.
“Israeli officials say Omar and Tlaib are expected to arrive in Israel on August 18, but the date might change”, Axios goes on to say.
Make of this what you will, but do note that if speaking what many people believe to be the truth about another country’s government is sufficient cause for a ban, then Trump wouldn’t be allowed anywhere in the world other than Israel and Saudi Arabia.