Israel grants request by Rep. Rashida Tlaib to visit West Bank

By ISAAC SCHARF, Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Israel's interior minister said Friday he has received and granted a request by Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib to enter the Israeli-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds.

Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, asked to visit her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank, Minister Aryeh Deri said in a statement.

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Deri's office published what it said was Tlaib's written request, on congressional stationary. In the letter, Tlaib said she would respect any restrictions and "not promote boycotts" during her visit.

The minister's decision marked yet another reversal concerning the high-profile West Bank tour that had been planned by Tlaib and fellow Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar.

On Thursday, Israel had announced it was barring the two from entry -- an unprecedented move targeting members of the U.S. Congress. Israel's decision came after President Donald Trump said in a tweet it would show "weakness" to allow in the two Democrats who have been sharply critical of him and of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

Tlaib and Omar had planned to visit Jerusalem and several West Bank cities, starting this weekend. Both are known as supporters of "boycott, divestment and sanctions," or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Israel alleges that BDS targets Israel's very existence, while the movement's supporters say it is intended as leverage to end more than half a century of Israeli military rule over Palestinians.

Israel's decision to ban the two had sparked widespread criticism, including from Israeli and Jewish organization who said it was an affront to U.S. institutions to bar the entry of members of Congress.

Deri said Friday he granted a subsequent request by Tlaib to visit the West Bank on humanitarian grounds. In her letter, Tlaib writes that this could be her last chance to see her grandmother.

Deri's office said in a statement that he "decided to allow her entry to Israel and hopes she will stand by her commitment and that the visit will be for humanitarian needs only."

Tlaib's apparent pledge to conduct the visit in line with restrictions imposed by Israel was bound to anger Palestinians who had hoped the congressional tour would highly their plight.

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