Critics called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move to bar two freshman Democratic congresswomen from entering Israel “unprecedented” — but just seven years ago, former President Barack Obama barred a member of the Israeli Knesset from entering the U.S.
When news broke that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not allow freshman Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, pundits and political figures alike were quick to voice their criticisms. (RELATED: Omar Claims Israel Is Implementing Trump’s Muslim Ban)
Ben Ari, who belonged to Israel’s National Union coalition of right-wing parties, requested a visa in order to attend two conferences — a request which was denied by the Obama administration in February of 2012. The American consulate denied the visa on the grounds that Ben Ari “belonged to a terrorist organization.”
The American consulate never publicly released the name of the terrorist organization to which they believed Ben Ari belonged, but he told Israeli outlet Haaretz that he suspected it was his association with Kach — a far-right political movement that was considered a terrorist organization and had been banned in Israel 18 years prior in 1994.
Ben Ari responded to the move saying, “The U.S. government, who receives with open arms [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, who calls for the destruction of Israel, [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, who planned the murder of children in Jerusalem, and [Israeli Arab MK] Ahmed Tibi, who enthusiastically encourages shahids, chose to bar me from meeting with Jewish communities in the U.S. and to encourage aliyah to Israel, with claims that I am a terrorist.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin called the move “unacceptable,” saying in a letter to then U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, “National Union is a completely legitimate faction of the Israeli parliament, and Ben Ari an elected representative of the State of Israel, a close American ally. To impugn him as belonging to a terrorist organization and bar him from visiting the country is unacceptable.”
Ben Ari, now a part of the far-right Otzma-Yehudit party, was banned from running for office in March of 2019. The High Court of Justice voted 8-1 to ban him, citing his “anti-Arab ideology,” marking the first time an individual candidate has been banned from elections. The court approved a far-left Jewish candidate and an Arab party slate.