JERUSALEM (AP/The Blaze) — Israel's parliamentary speaker called off a legislative delegation's visit to the U.S. after Washington denied an ultranationalist lawmaker a visa, citing his links to a terror group.
Three lawmakers were to attend a women's empowerment conference in the U.S. capital in late March. But Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said he canceled the trip because the unrelated visa denial was "an affront to the entire Knesset."
The State Department won't let Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union Party enter the United States because he once belonged to the Kach Party of the slain extremist rabbi, Meir Kahane.
Kahane, who was assassinated in New York 20 years ago, preached expelling Arabs from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel banned Kach from parliament in 1988 on the grounds that it was racist and Washington designates Kach a terror organization.
On that basis, the U.S. State Department rejected Ben-Ari's visa application two weeks ago.
In an angry letter to the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Rivlin protested the visa denial, saying the man was a legitimately elected member of parliament.
"The United States' allegation that a member of Knesset is a terrorist in unacceptable and is an affront to the entire Knesset," Rivlin said in a statement.
Ben-Ari's assistant Itamar Ben-Gvir — himself a well-known Kach activist — commended Rivlin's "strong and moral" stance and accused the U.S. of a larger anti-Israeli bent.
"The Americans disgrace not only Knesset member Ben-Ari, but the entire Israeli Knesset," he said. "It's all part of Obama's anti-Israel bias."
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv had no comment.
Here's the original story of Ben-Ari's ban, which occurred in 2009:
MK Michael Ben-Ari (Ichud Leumi-National Union) reported Monday that he had been turned down for a visa to visit the United States. Ben-Ari had been planning a trip in the upcoming days, in order to visit several American Jewish communities.
Sources close to the MK said that the refusal appears to have stemmed from concerns over demonstrations in which Ben-Ari took part prior to the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza. While applying for a visa Ben-Ari was asked if he had a criminal background, and revealed that he had been arrested during an anti-Disengagement protest, they explained.
The planned visit to the U.S. was to be Ben-Ari's first. The freshman MK expressed hope that the American consulate would reverse its decision.
A story from Israeli National News brings us Ben-Ari's pugnacious response to the ban:
MK Ben Ari told Arutz Sheva, "The excuse given by American officials is pathetic. This is not because of concern for my safety, but because officials there abhor me and Rabbi Kahane….
"Strangely, MKs Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, who hobnob with known terrorists, are allowed to travel across the USA, coast to coast, but I am prevented from doing this for the same reason.”
Ahmed Tibi was once a personal adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat. Both Tibi and Zoabi have appeared in photos of celebrations held by known Hamas terrorists in recent months.