Israel has welcomed other political critics. How Trump made Omar and Tlaib different

AMNA NAWAZ: We return to our top story, Israel
banning two Muslim-American congresswomen from entry. In a tweet this morning, President Trump said
Israel would show, quote, great weakness by allowing the congresswomen to enter. He added that the representatives, quote,
hate Israel and all Jewish people. The president has targeted the two representatives
repeatedly, as part of a four-woman freshman Democratic group that’s dubbed itself “The
Squad.” Representatives Tlaib and Omar have faced
criticism in the past for their statements on Israel, which some critics have called
anti-Semitic, and their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS movement,
designed to pressure Israel to leave the Palestinian lands and recognize their rights by targeting
Israeli companies, as well as international companies, universities and other groups that
invest in Israel. In 2017, Israeli lawmakers passed a law that
can bar entry to people considered advocates of the international BDS movement. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives
passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement as one that, quote, promotes principles of
collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation. President Trump’s stance puts him at odds
with Republican congressmen, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who was in Israel this
week. REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Speaking with the president,
he knows there are people who have differences of opinion. I think it would be healthy for anyone who
has that opinion, should come just as all these members have, to see, and I feel very
secure in this, anyone that comes with open ears, open eyes and an open mind will walk
away with an understanding, just as all these members here do, that this bond is unbreakable. AMNA NAWAZ: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu is in the middle of a close election campaign, and critics say he can’t afford
to appear weak while facing criticism of Israel. And now for reaction from a former top Israeli
diplomat. Danny Ayalon served as deputy foreign minister
from 2009 to 2013, and as Israeli ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2006. Ambassador Ayalon, welcome back to the “NewsHour”. I want to ask you about what the Israeli Ambassador
Ron Dermer said last month. He said the lawmakers would be allowed to
visit, quote, out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel
and America. That was last month. What changed between then and now? DANNY AYALON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO
THE UNITED STATES: All right. Yes, well, thank you, Amna. I would say two things. First of all, there was an invitation by the
bipartisan delegation, and we have had here last week, basically 70 members of Congress
from both parties headed by both majority and minority leader, and it would have been
much better for them to come then. They refused. And not only that, they have decided on their
own accord to actually ignore Israel, to go only to the Palestinian side. They are sponsored by an organization, Palestinian
one, which is called MIFTAH which supports terrorism. And I think that by the latest analysis, the
reason for this visit was just a clear provocation and really to harm and hurt Israeli interests. AMNA NAWAZ: I want to be clear about something,
Ambassador. You mention they had been invited previously. You are saying if they had visited with that
other delegation, they would have been welcome in Israel? DANNY AYALON: By all means. And, you know, Israel is a free country. We’re a democracy. We are not afraid of criticism. If anything, you know, Israelis are the most
severe and fierce critics of themselves and of our own government. AMNA NAWAZ: You tweeted that the Israeli government
accepted the U.S. administration’s suggestion, their recommendation, and that’s what led
to the ban. So how is this to be seen? Is this the Israel guy government taking orders
from President Trump and the U.S. administration on who is allowed in and who is not? DANNY AYALON: I believe that the main issue
was on the merit of the provocation. However, what added I’m sure to the decision,
although from Jerusalem I hear otherwise, but nobody can deny the president’s tweet,
once there is a request from the president of our best friend and ally, you know, the
United States of America, certainly you have to heed or you have to take into consideration
their request. So, I’m sure this was also added into the
mix. And you can here invoke what we call a waiver
because of national interest. AMNA NAWAZ: Mr. Ambassador, as part of the
justification for denying them entry, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that their support
for this BDS movement was part of that decision. Israel has long held itself up as a bastion
of democracy in the region. Doesn’t this send the message that anyone
who is critical of the government won’t be welcome? DANNY AYALON: Well, Amna, there is a difference
between a criticism and undermining the very legitimacy and existence of a state. And democracies also have the right, I would
say the obligation to, defend themselves. BDS, unfortunately, is not just calling for
boycotts and sanctions against Israel, it’s not just criticizing any Israeli policy, which
is, of course, fair and legitimate, but actually they are undermining the very existence. The battle cry of the BDS movement is basically
from the river to the sea, Palestinian will be free. And if you look at the map, from the river
to the sea of the land of Israel, there is no room for any other state, let alone the
Jewish state. AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you: Israel has also
welcomed people who have clearly used anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past. I’m talking about Hungary’s leader Viktor
Orban, also an Italian leader, Matteo Salvini. Both of them have been anti-Semites in some
of their political language. They were welcomed to Israel. So, what’s the difference? DANNY AYALON: They respect the country. They promote cooperation with our country. And if they did have anti-Semitic — any references,
of course, we would not — we would not condone it and we would call them out. AMNA NAWAZ: Former Ambassador Danny Ayalon
joining us tonight — thank you very much for your time. DANNY AYALON: My pleasure. AMNA NAWAZ: For a lawmaker’s perspective now,
we turn to Representative Brad Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee and a Democrat from California. Congressman Sherman, welcome back to the “NewsHour”. I want to ask you to respond to what you just
heard from Ambassador Ayalon there. He says, look, both Congresswomen Tlaib and
Omar would have been welcome had they travelled with that bipartisan delegation. He saw this visit setup as a provocation. What do you say to that? REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): Well, he’s trying to
put perhaps a better face on it, an Israeli pride face on it. The Israeli government were going to let my
two colleagues in until they were pressured by Trump. Now, it’s tough for any country to say they’re
bending to that kind of pressure. But when you’re a tiny country with one
friend in the world, and you get that kind of pressure from the president, and especially,
foreign countries tend to look at our executive as the main source of our power, they don’t
fully understand the role of Congress under our Constitution, when you’re under that kind
of coercive power, you respond to it. The fault here is Donald Trump, because while
he claims to be a friend of Israel, he is trying to delegitimize Israel or at least
hurt Israel with about half the population of the United States, including those who
support the role of Congress, its oversight and fact-gathering responsibilities. So Trump claims to be a friend of Israel. I call him a pseudo-Zionist. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, let me ask you about this. There is a law on the books in Israel from
2017. It allows them to ban entry to anyone who
is seen as a supporter of this BDS movement. They have barred from entry other people before. Is it different somehow now because it’s two
members of Congress? BRAD SHERMAN: Israel has welcomed Muslim leaders,
Muslim officials from all over the world, including those who are nominally in support
of the Arab boycott of Israel. Israel rolled out the red carpet for President
Sadat when he came to Jerusalem at a time when his country was at war with Israel technically
and certainly supported the boycott of Israel. The Israelis have made the right decision,
which was to let my two colleagues in. And they were forced out of that in a way
that is harmful to Israel by the coercive pressure of the president. But let’s also put in context, and I think
Danny did this well, this is not your regular boycott movement. I mean, I’ve got a friend or two who won’t
buy a Toyota because they want Japan to stop harvesting whales or stop killing whales. They’re not trying to force every Japanese
citizen out of Asia and to be killed or somehow drifted into the Pacific. But the international leaders of the BDS movement
are trying — not the try to get Israel to change this or that policy, but to try to
remove every Jew from the Middle East. Just as Hitler wanted a Jewish-free Europe,
this BDS group wants a Jewish-free Middle East. (CROSSTALK) AMNA NAWAZ: Well, let me ask you about that,
sir. Do you believe your colleagues have the right
to support that BDS movement? BRAD SHERMAN: I think that my colleagues support
changes in the policy of Israel. I have no reason to think that they support
the idea of excluding every Jew and every Israeli from the Middle East. AMNA NAWAZ: Sir, before I let you know — BRAD SHERMAN: But there are supporters. AMNA NAWAZ: I do know your time is limited,
and I want the make sure I ask this of you. Do you worry today’s decision to ban both
those members of Congress from entry will have an impact on U.S.-Israeli relations? BRAD SHERMAN: Israel has one friend in the
world. It cannot afford to have only one half of
one friend in the world. Trump is a pseudo-Zionist who has forced in
the name of helping Israel, which is most pernicious part of it, has forced the Israeli
government to take an action which will slightly weaken Israeli support here in the United
States. I think we can recover from this, but it clearly
is not a day when the Israeli government was able to do what it had decided to do, which
was to admit my two colleagues. AMNA NAWAZ: Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman
of California, thank you very much for your time.

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