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Rep. Tlaib cancels West Bank trip after Israel grants her permission to visit grandmother

"I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in," she wrote on Twitter.
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Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, said Friday that she had decided to cancel her visit to her grandmother in the West Bank after Israel announced that it had granted her permission.

"I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice," Tlaib tweeted.

Her office later issued a statement, adding that Tlaib had planned to pick from fig trees with her grandmother and discuss Israel's policies with Palestinians and Israelis.

"The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter — reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation with United States support," she said in the statement.

"I have therefore decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart. Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me — it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice."

Her statement came after Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said in a statement that Israel had decided to approve Tlaib's entry for "a humanitarian visit of her 90-year-old grandmother."

However, in a Friday tweet, Deri suggested that Tlaib's request was a ploy to disparage the country.

"I approved her request as a gesture of goodwill on a humanitarian basis, but it was just a provocative request, aimed at bashing the State of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother," he said.

Tlaib's announcement came a day after Israel said it was barring her and fellow Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from visiting Israel and accused them of attempting to "boycott and negate Israel's legitimacy."

The interior ministry said early Friday that Tlaib had sent a letter asking to be granted access in which she promised to not promote boycotts against Israel and to respect the restrictions imposed on her during her visit. The interior ministry "expressed hope that she would honor her commitment."

But Tlaib later wrote on Twitter that traveling to the region under the proposed conditions would "kill a piece of me."

Tlaib and Omar have previously voiced their support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS, and under Israeli law, supporters of the movement can be denied entry to Israel.

Explaining Israel's decision to block the trip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that "it became clear that they were planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and negate Israel's legitimacy."

Image: Muftia Tlaib, the maternal grandmother of Congresswoman Rashida, walk with her son Bassam outside their home in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, in the occupied West Bank
Muftia Tlaib, Rashida Tlaib's grandmother, with her son Bassam outside their home in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa in the occupied West Bank.Abbas Momani / AFP - Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted derisively of Tlaib's decision. "Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup," he wrote. "The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!"

Earlier Friday, several Israeli commentators criticized the condition placed on Tlaib's permission to enter the country, saying it was a reflection of the Israeli government's approach to Palestinian rights.

"Israelis have rights, Palestinians have needs," tweeted Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann, who focuses on the conflict in Jerusalem and was due to meet with the congresswomen during their trip. "Israeli rights are inalienable; Palestinian needs are fulfilled by our magnanimity, a reward for 'good behavior.'"

Haggai Matar, the executive editor at the Israel-based +972 Magazine, said the notion that Israel was allowing Tlaib to visit her family as a "humanitarian" gesture was worse than the ban.

"We won't respect you as an independent political leader, as a US congresswoman, but you're welcome to beg for mercy like all Palestinians — is the message," he tweeted Friday.

Democratic lawmakers slammed Israel's decision Thursday to bar the lawmakers, warning that it could damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and accusing President Donald Trump of instigating the move. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decision "a sad reversal" and "deeply disappointing."

Ahead of the Israeli government’s announcement, Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” if the country allowed the two to enter, later tweeting that "Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!"

It also sent shock waves throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories with many decrying the move.

Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian politician, called it an “outrageous act of hostility against the American people.”

"This is a dangerous precedent that defies all diplomatic norms and an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to engage with the rest of the world,” she said in a statement.

Yaakov Katz, the editor of the English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post, criticized the decision to bar the lawmakers arguing that it would "cause damage for years to come."

"The country should let them in. It has nothing to hide," he tweeted.