In a move that has stunned Democrats, and shocked much of the world, Israeli officials 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, a reversal that comes amid pressure from President Trump and concerns about their support for boycotts of Israel.
The move prompted a massive outcry from Democratic lawmakers in Washington, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling it a “sign of weakness” and Omar accusing 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.
But the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a strong supporter of President Trump –has staunchly defended the decision — suggesting the freshmen lawmakers had ulterior motives with the planned trip.
Netanyahu, explaining his government’s decision at length on his office’s Twitter account, said 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.”
President Trump Defends the Move
Of course President Trump, whose tweets many believe prompted the Israeli reversal, supported Netanyahu’s assertions. Soon after hearing about the move to bar their visit, Trump called Tlaib and Omar “very anti-Jewish and anti-Israel” and defended his statements urging Israel to block them from entering the country, amid a massive outcry from Democrats.
Speaking to reporters after deplaning Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey, Trump said recent comments by the two freshmen Democratic lawmakers about Israel were “disgraceful,” arguing they have become the “face of the Democrat Party.”
The President continued, “They are very anti-Jewish and they are very anti-Israel, I think it is disgraceful the things they’ve said.” Trump then added, “This isn’t a one-line mistake. What they have said about Israel and Jewish people is a horrible thing and they’ve become the face of the Democrat Party.”
The unprecedented move to bar Tlaib, D-Mich., and Omar, D-Minn., from visiting marks a deep foray by Israel into America’s bitterly polarized politics. Israel’s move came shortly after Trump tweeted that the Israeli government would “show great weakness” if it allowed the lawmakers in.
In a statement, Netanyahu said Israel is “open to critics and criticism,” except for those who advocate boycotts against it. “Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress,” Netanyahu said.