2020 Comment

Gillibrand: U.S. has a “duty” to hold Israel “accountable” for banning members of Congress

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) questioned the Israeli government’s commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance on Sunday following its decision last week to bar entry to two members of Congress.

“Congress has a duty to make decisions about whether we give aid, how we protect allies such as Israel with qualitative military edge. I don’t know why Netanyahu would want to deny members of Congress to come to Israel if they expect us to be that never-ending partner and friend,” Gillibrand said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” with Martha Raddatz. 

The 2020 presidential candidate also indicated that she would hold Israel “accountable” for its decision if she was president, although she didn’t illustrate what that meant. “I think our obligation, as an ally and as a friend is to hold them accountable when they’re wrong,” Gillbrand explained. “And I think any time you are undermining basic free speech rights and human rights you’re going in the wrong direction.” 

Gillibrand said it was unfortunate that Netanyahu’s government had passed a law to prevent supporters of the BDS movement from entering Israel “because in this country, we believe in free speech.”

Read Gillibrand’s comments in full below: 

Raddatz: I want to turn to Israel. Congressman Tlaib has said she will no longer travel there, even though Israel had said they would allow her to do that on humanitarian basis to visit her grandmother. She says she won’t do that now because of some of the demands that were put on her. Is that a mistake? Should she have gone because she wanted to originally go see her grandmother?

Gillibrand: “So, the tradition is for members of Congress — I have been to Israel several times as a member of Congress, and I brought a CODEL of Republicans and Democrats — Lindsey Graham was on my trip, Senator Hoeven, Amy Klobuchar. And we met with Netanyahu. And the point is, Congress has a duty to make decisions about whether we give aid, how we protect allies such as Israel with qualitative military edge. I don’t know why Netanyahu would want to deny members of Congress to come to Israel if they expect us to be that never-ending partner and friend.”

Raddatz: Well, they talk about the BDS movement…

Gillibrand: “Agreed. I understand…”

Raddatz: You don’t support that, so why is that enough?

Gillibrand: “Because in this country, we believe in free speech. In this country, we don’t deny people the right to participate in conversations about their views and their values. Unfortunately, Netanyahu has allowed a very conservative government to have a law that says if you support the BDS movement they can prevent you.”

Raddatz: Should there be repercussions for Israel?

Gillibrand: “I think our obligation, as an ally and as a friend is to hold them accountable when they’re wrong. And I think any time you are undermining basic free speech rights and human rights you’re going in the wrong direction.”

Raddatz: And how do you hold them accountable?

Gillibrand: “That’s what you do as president. President Trump is unwilling to hold anyone accountable. He’s unwilling to stand up to other world leaders. You’ve seen it with this instance of Israel, you’ve seen it with China, you’ve seen it with Russia. And he has really shrunk in the face of his responsibilities, unwilling to actually lead and to ask other world leaders to support and protect human rights.”

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