The day Netanyahu helped anti-Israel voices gain resonance and credibility

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US Reps. Rashida Tlaib, center, and Ilhan Omar, right. (Laura E. Adkins for JTA/Getty Images via JTA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US Reps. Rashida Tlaib, center, and Ilhan Omar, right. (photo: Laura E. Adkins for JTA/Getty Images via JTA)
There will now be more support for policy ideas that rethink the nature of the US-Israel relationship, including exerting more pressure on Israel to change its behavior if it wants to enjoy the same level of friendship from Washington.

By Eric Cortellessa | The Times of Israel | Aug 17, 2019

‘The political debate over Israel in this country is going to get more robust and more wide open. People who have serious criticism of what the [Israeli] government is doing are going to have the freedom to say what they want. There will be less fear of saying these things. The unintended consequences of Netanyahu’s decision is that he has opened it up for critics to push for ideas in the policy space that they couldn’t before.’
— Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street

This much can be said of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision on Thursday to bar two American congresswomen from entering Israel: He has unified the Democratic Party in its opposition to him.

Freshmen representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — who both support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel — have been polarizing figures within the caucus since their November 2018 arrival on Capitol Hill.

Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had more than once argued that their views on the Mideast were marginal — that they are not representative of the party.

But after Netanyahu apparently capitulated to US President Donald Trump’s demands that he prohibit Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel — under a 2017 Israeli law that allows the country to ban any foreigner who knowingly promotes boycotts of Israel — he turned two figures who were sources of Democratic discord into victims of Israeli oppression.

As a consequence, pro-Israel activists in Washington say, the case for traditionally supportive postures on the Jewish state will henceforth be more difficult to make. In other words, Netanyahu just gave anti-Israel activists in America one of the biggest boosts they could possibly imagine.

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