Israel ban of US reps prompts scrutiny of aid

A general view shows the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem's Old City December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun *** Local Caption *** 07.12.17 09.04.18

decision by Israel to bar two American congresswomen from embarking on a highly sensitive tour of the country has over the past 24 hours prompted US lawmakers to call for scrutiny of billions in annual aid to the Jewish state.

“The idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation, which – by the way – we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, is clearly an outrage,” Senator Bernie Sanders told MSNBC on Thursday night.

Sanders is currently among the frontrunners in the Democratic presidential primary race and consistently out-polls the incumbent Donald Trump. In a Fox News poll released Thursday, Sanders was projected to beat Trump by a 9% margin.

And he came out swinging after the Israeli decision against the tour by his junior colleagues Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan was announced.

“If Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a firsthand look at what’s going on – and I have been there many many times – but if [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] doesn’t want members to visit, maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.”

His fellow presidential hopefuls – Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden – also condemned the move by Israel but did not touch on aid.

Tlaib, who often refers to Senator Sanders as “aamu (uncle) Bernie”, using the Arabic term of endearment, is of Palestinian heritage.

Both she and Omar, who immigrated from Somalia to the United States, have been vocal critics of Israeli policies. But they wanted to defy accusations of anti-Semitism with a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, where they were slated to meet with Jewish and Arab activists and politicians.