- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A senior Israeli lawmaker is complaining to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv over the State Department’s refusal to issue a visa for another Israeli legislator who once belonged to an outlawed political party on the U.S. terrorist list.

Reuven Rivlin, speaker of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, canceled a legislative delegation’s trip to Washington after the United States rejected the visa application from Michael Ben-Ari.

“The United States’ allegation that a member of the Knesset is a terrorist is unacceptable and is an affront to the entire Knesset,” Mr. Rivlin said Tuesday.

In a letter to the U.S. Embassy, Mr. Rivlin protested the denial of the visa and noted that Mr. Ben-Ari is a legitimately elected member of parliament.

The embassy has refused to comment on the issue.

Now a member of the National Union Party, Mr. Ben-Ari once belonged to the Kach Party of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York in 1990. Israel banned the party from parliament in 1988, accusing it of racism.

Mr. Ben-Ari was to have been included in an Israeli delegation to a women’s conference in Washington later this month.

Mr. Ben-Ari, 48, is the first outspoken disciple of Kahane’s to win a seat in the Knesset. He has been a member of the parliament since 2009.

The State Department has accused the Kach Party of using explosives and firearms in attacks against Palestinians and conspiring in assassinations.

The National Party is a coalition of four nationalist political parties: Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, Hatikva, Moledet and Tkuma.

‘BASELESS’ CHARGES

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States this week denounced a businessman who has accused him of plotting to help remove top security officials suspected of planning a coup.

Husain Haqqani told a Pakistani government commission investigating the scandal that Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz concocted the whole affair.

“All the allegations leveled against me by Mansoor Ijaz are baseless, and there is no data to prove them,” he said Monday in filings to the commission appointed to probe a scandal called “Memogate” in Pakistan.

Mr. Haqqani, ambassador in Washington from 2008 until he resigned in November, is defending himself against charges that he conspired with Mr. Ijaz to seek U.S. help in case military and intelligence officials tried to overthrow the government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr. Ijaz claims that Mr. Haqqani wanted him to deliver a letter from Mr. Zardari to Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until his resignation in September.

The letter sought Adm. Mullen’s assurance of U.S. support for Mr. Zardari if he pre-empted the suspected coup by removing top security officials, according to Mr. Ijaz.

The letter delivered to the Pentagon in May came nine days after Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town where he had been hiding.

In Pakistan, top generals and intelligence officials reportedly were outraged by the raid, while many Western analysts suspected that Pakistani security forces were sheltering bin Laden.

Mr. Haqqani’s attorney, Zahid Bukhari, left Islamabad on Tuesday to interview Mr. Ijaz, who is living in London.

“Mansoor Ijaz is a liar, and my cross-examination will expose him,” Mr. Bukhari told reporters in Pakistan.

Mr. Ijaz, meanwhile, complained about Mr. Haqqani’s “selective memory” and stuck by his charges.

“The point is that the truth is the truth,” Mr. Ijaz said in London. “No matter how many times I am asked to tell it, it will come out the same way because there is only one version of the truth.”

Mr. Haqqani was a popular ambassador in Washington, and many top U.S. senators are closely following the Pakistani investigation.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.