Israeli officials have announced that they have decided to block U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from entering the country as part of a planned visit.
It is believed that the reversal was made because of pressure from Donald Trump as well as concerns about their support for boycotts of Israel.
Democratic leaders were quick to speak out about the decision. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decision a “sign of weakness.” Ilhan Omar accused Israel of implementing “Trump’s Muslim ban.”
“It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government,” Omar said in a statement.
The Israeli government was quick to defend its decision — suggesting the lawmakers had ulterior motives with the planned trip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained his decision on his office’s Twitter account. He stated that Tlaib and Omar’s itinerary “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”
Netanyahu said their travel plans referred to a trip to “Palestine,” not Israel, and the congresswomen were not interested in meeting with Israeli officials. He went on to note that the Palestinian organization that planned the visit, MIFTAH, supports the boycott movement and that people associated with the group have supported terror against Israel in the past.
He added that Israel welcomes critics with the exception of those who support boycotts of the Jewish State.
The decision made by Interior Minister Arye Deri and announced on Thursday by deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely. The decision came despite earlier assurances that the congresswomen would be permitted in the country.
“Israel has decided — we won’t enable the members of Congress to enter the country,” Hotovely stated. “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”
Omar and Tlaib were among 17 members of Congress who voted against a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in July.
Netanyahu then stated that Rashida Tlaib would be permitted to visit her Palestinian family members only if she filled out a humanitarian request and promised to not promote boycotts of Israel while she was there.
Trump celebrated the decision, tweeting: “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the faces of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!” This, after he publicly pressured Israel to stand firm in blocking Omar and Tlaib amid earlier reports that the government was considering doing so.
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
Democrats expressed strong opposition to keeping Omar and Tlaib out.
“Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy,” presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a tweet. “The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in.”
Another presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., weighed in before the decision was formally announced.
“Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” Warren tweeted, saying it would be “shameful” and “unprecedented.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., spoke out about the decision as well.
“I strongly condemn this decision by the Israeli government, which undermines the ability for our two allied countries to have the frank, open and, at times, difficult discussions that we must have in order to ensure Israel remains a secure and democratic nation,” Nadler said.
MIFTAH issued a statement saying that Israel’s decision was “an affront to the American people and their representatives” and “an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision-makers and other actors from around the world.”
Tlaib and Omar were supposed to arrive in Israel on Friday.