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‘No way in hell’: Ilhan Omar to skip Israeli president speech to Congress

Citing ongoing protests in Israel and her own experience after being banned from the country, the US lawmaker said Washington should not honour Israel's ‘most right-wing government'
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has said she will not be attending a joint session of Congress attended by Israeli President Isaac Herzog (AFP/File photo)

The Democratic US lawmaker, Ilhan Omar, is boycotting a joint session of Congress for an address by Israeli President Isaac Herzog next week, a move that could be followed by other politicians in the country. 

"There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a president whose country has banned me and denied Rashida Tlaib the ability to see her grandma," Omar wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday. 

The congresswoman was referring to a 2019 decision by Israel to bar her and fellow US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from entering the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Israeli government at the time led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to ban the two lawmakers over their "suspected provocations and promotion" of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israeli law permits banning BDS supporters from entering the country.

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Former US President Donald Trump supported the move against the US lawmakers in 2019.

Both Tlaib and Omar have been vocal proponents of the movement, which seeks to pressure Israel to end its human rights abuses against Palestinians, leading to a backlash by pro-Israel lobby groups.

Omar said that “we should not be inviting the president of Israel - a government who under its current prime minister barred the first two Muslim women elected to Congress from visiting the country - to give a joint address to Congress.

"Herzog's address comes on behalf of the most right-wing government in Israel's history," said the lawmaker. 

"The United States can and should use its diplomatic tools to engage with the Israeli government, but giving the current government the honour of a joint televised address sends the absolute wrong signal at the wrong time," she wrote.

Herzog is set to address both houses of Congress next Wednesday, as well as to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

The visit comes as Biden called the current Israeli cabinet the "most extreme" he has ever seen on a CNN interview on Sunday. As a result, Biden has declined to invite Netanyahu to Washington over its policies.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir hit out at Biden’s remarks earlier this week saying Israel is "no longer a star" on the American flag.

"President Biden needs to realise that we are no longer a star on the American flag," Ben Gvir said on Twitter, referring to the fact that the US flag contains 50 stars representing the 50 states that make up the country.

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