Ilhan Omar is 'Unworthy' of Congress - Israeli Ex-Prime Minister Says

Published June 16th, 2021 - 06:39 GMT
Former Israeli prime minister says Ilhan Omar is unfit for Congress
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tears up as members of Congress hold a moment of silence for the 600,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on June 14, 2021. The rate of severe illness and death continues to drop as more Americans get vaccinated. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
Ehud Olmert, 75, was prime minister of Israel from 2006-9

Israel's former prime minister has said that Ilhan Omar is 'unworthy' to sit in Congress following her 'ignorant, simplistic and shallow' criticism of his country.

Ehud Olmert, prime minister from 2006-9, was asked on a New York radio show about Omar's controversial tweet on June 7, drawing parallels between the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.

Olmert, 75, said her remarks were 'vicious and completely unacceptable'.

'I must say I'm not particularly impressed with this comment,' he told Rita Cosby's radio show on Tuesday.

'I think it's vicious, and completely unacceptable.

'I think most of all it shows a total lack of understanding and ignorance of this congresswoman.

'She's ignorant, she is simplistic, she is shallow to be able to say that - and she is completely obsessed with her biases because of her religion, she needs to identify with the Palestinians, the Arabs.'

Omar, a Somali-born former refugee who is one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, has long been at odds with her Democrat colleagues on Israel.

'We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,' she tweeted on June 7. 

'We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.'

Her comments were consistent with her fierce criticism of the country - to the discomfort of many within her party, and the fury of Republicans.

Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, on Tuesday called Omar 'anti-Semitic' and 'anti-American', and urged Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Olmert, refusing to be drawn in to domestic U.S. politics, said that you did not need to be a supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister until last week, to disagree with her lumping Hamas and Israel into the same category.

'I am a big opponent of Netanyahu and his policies, and I have been so for many years,' said Olmert.

'But how anyone can say that there is any similarity between a terrorist organization which is shooting at civilians and cities of Israel on a continuous basis for years, rockets that end up killing innocent people?

'We tried during the last encounter with Hamas to hit only specific positions which were named by Hamas terrorists. We may have made a mistake - if it happened, it was contrary to our policies and plans.

'While Hamas is shooting continuously to our cities.

'So there is no such comparison.

'I think it shows stupidity, ignorance, shallowness and a simplistic attitude.'

He spoke as Israeli aircraft carried out a series of airstrikes at militant sites in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday - the first such raids since a shaky ceasefire ended the war with Hamas last month.

The airstrikes targeted facilities used by Hamas militants for meetings to plan attacks, the Israeli military said, blaming the group for any act of violence emanating from Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Israeli ultra-nationalists paraded in east Jerusalem in a show of force that threatened to spark renewed violence. Palestinians in Gaza responded by launching incendiary balloons that caused at least 10 fires in southern Israel.

The march posed a test for Israel's fragile new government as well as the tenuous truce that ended last month's 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

New York City once again saw pro-Palestine marches, although there were no reports of violent altercations.

Olmert said that it was unfortunate that Omar, 38, held such views.

'It is sad that a congresswoman of the United States can be so shallow and simplistic.

'But you have 435 congressmen, so some sometimes can be unworthy.'

Asked by Cosby whether he felt she should be stripped of her committee assignments, as some demanded, Olmert said it was not his place to decide.

'I think that it is not my position, not my status to offer whether a person should be there or not,' he said.

'I leave it to the discretion of the leadership of the Democrat party.

'But I think she is ignorant and obsessive.

'And she lacks the ignorance and wisdom that is expected of a person in such an important place as the Congress of the United States of America.'

Omar last week tried edging away from a bitter fight with Jewish Democratic lawmakers, saying her remarks were 'in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries.'

A three-sentence statement by the Minnesota Democrat also said her comments were 'not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel,' and seemed to dial back a more confrontational tone she had taken earlier.

In a series of tweets, Omar had said her critics' public rebuke of her was 'shameful,' accused them of 'Islamophobic tropes' and said she was merely seeking justice 'for all victims of crimes against humanity.'

Minutes after Omar released her latest remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the other top five House Democratic leaders issued an unusual joint statement making clear they had disapproved of Omar´s initial comments.

'Drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all,' the leaders said.

'We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban.'

The leaders' statement seemed designed to try defusing their party's latest rancorous dispute over the Middle East.

That schism has generally pitted younger progressives against older, establishment-leaning lawmakers who are more pro-Israel, a divide that has intensified since last month´s 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like


Sign up to our newsletter for exclusive updates and enhanced content