The Israeli government is blocking Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country days before their planned visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“We will not allow the congresswomen to enter the country. We will not allow anyone who denies our right to exist in the world to enter the country. In principle, this is a very correct decision,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Thursday.
The government is reportedly concerned with Omar and Tlaib’s support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to punish Israel over its treatment of the Palestinian people, an Israeli broadcaster reported Thursday morning. Israel recently banned the granting of visas to foreign nationals who publicly support any boycott of the Jewish state or its West Bank settlements.
The Democratic lawmakers were scheduled to arrive on Sunday on a trip organized by the non-profit organization Miftah, which is led by a Palestinian lawmaker and peace negotiator.
Tlaib, a Detroit native whose parents emigrated from Palestine, and Omar, a Somali-American former refugee who represents Minneapolis, are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. The congresswomen have been outspoken in their criticism of Israel and US-Israel policy and Omar has made comments widely denounced as anti-Semitic.
An Israeli government official told The Washington Post on Thursday that Tlaib may be granted an exception if she submits a humanitarian request to visit her family in the occupied West Bank. The Post reported that Tlaib hoped to spend a few days visiting her grandmother in the West Bank.
The decision is a reversal of the government’s previous position on the issue. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer previously said Israel wouldn’t bar any American lawmakers from entering the country “out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the two progressive lawmakers, labeled them anti-Semitic, and told them to “go back” to the countries they came from — comments widely denounced as racist. Tlaib was born in the US, and Omar is naturalized US citizen.
Trump reportedly told advisers that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should bar Omar and Tlaib from entering the country. The White House denied the report, but on Thursday Trump tweeted, “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit.”
He went on, “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
Spokespeople for Reps. Tlaib, Omar, and the Israel government did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s requests for comment.
The move will likely be heavily criticized among Democrats and some Jewish groups in the US. Some critics were quick to make their disagreement known on Thursday morning.
“Original Israeli decision to allow Tlaib/Omar visit was wise. Reversal makes little sense,” tweeted Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama. “I disagree with their stands on Israel, have criticized them. But zero harm in letting them come learn, see (even if they had an agenda). Reversal harms Israel’s standing in US, boosts BDS.”
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