Opinion pieces like Martin Oliner’s “Why Israel Was Right In Denying Entry To Omar, Tlaib” (Aug. 30), which stated that “letting Trump use [Netanyahu] to paint the Democratic Party in the extremist image of [Reps.] Tlaib and Omar … is clearly in Israel’s interest,” have focused too much on the political aims of the four central figures and too little on the destructive precedents that they set for American and Israeli diplomacy.
For both Israel and the U.S., the best outcome here for democracy and diplomacy would have been for all four politicians to have acted with more discretion. To bar a visit by provocative members of Congress is understandable if the bar were only temporary, limited to the duration of Israel’s relatively short election campaign. Democracies should be able to conduct a national campaign without intrusion by foreign politicians arriving to favor or oppose certain candidates or government policies. Similarly, though, democratic legislatures should be able to conduct a foreign policy debate, like Congress debating the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, without a direct address by a foreign leader.
Whether friendly or unfriendly, politicians seeking to cross borders should avoid the appearance of trying to directly influence an ally’s election campaign or legislative debate. In turn, statesmen should not be walling out critical politicians from abroad but can shut their gates when a nation is preparing for an election. Such conditional political forbearance strengthens rather than weakens the position of host and guest alike.