Israeli lawmakers nix U.S. conference over visa rejection

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A delegation of Israeli lawmakers will not attend a Washington conference because the United States has barred entry to one member because he belonged to a banned terrorist group.

Knesset member Michael Ben Ari of the right-wing National Union party had been affiliated with Kach, the anti-Arab group founded in the 1970s by the late Meir Kahane. Kach is banned in the United States, the European Union and Canada, and outlawed in Israel.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Monday that he is banning the entire delegation, which was scheduled to to attend a female empowerment conference in Washington at the end of the month, from traveling to the U.S.  because of the visa denial.

The U.S. consular staff said Ben Ari’s visa application was denied based on the State Department’s right to ban terrorists from entering the country, Haaretz reported.

“The U.S.’s argument that a member of Knesset is a terrorist is unacceptable and insults the honor of the entire Knesset,” Rivlin said.

Rivlin had written to Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, to protest the decision.

Besides Ben Ari, other members of the delegation were Tzipi Hotovely of the Likud Party, Einat Wilf of the Independence Party, and Zehava Gal-On of Meretz. They were to be hosted by the U.S. Congress and also were scheduled to attend a reception at the Israeli Embassy.

Ben Ari had planned to attend two conferences in the United States this month.
 

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