Israel has decided to deny entry to Democratic congresswomen, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, ahead of a planned trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“The decision has been made, the decision is not to allow them to enter,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Israel‘s Reshet Radio.
Shortly before the decision was made public, US President Donald Trump put pressure on Israel into barring Tlaib and Omar, saying that allowing them to visit would “show great weakness” on Israel’s behalf. Trump, who has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has dubbed Tlaib and Omar “radical left congresswomen” who should apologize to both the US and Israel.
The congresswomen, critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, were due to arrive for their trip Sunday.
Last month they both voted against a House resolution condemning the boycott movement, officially known as the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement. The resolution passed with strong bipartisan support.
In 2017 Israel passed a law allowing the government to bar people who support the boycott movement from entering the country.
However, the move against Tlaib and Omar is still a surprise. Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the US, said last month that Israel would not deny any member of Congress entry out of respect for the two countries’ diplomatic relationship.
Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, were due to attend a private trip set up by a nonprofit organization led by a Palestinian lawmaker.
They planned to visit several cities in the West Bank, where Tlaib also has family members, and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
Jeremy Slevin, a spokesperson for Omar, declined to comment immediately. A representative for Tlaib could not be immediately reached for comment.
In a statement, the Democratic Majority for Israel, a pro-Israel lobbying group, condemned the decision by Israel’s government.
“While we disagree strongly with the anti-Israel, and in some instances anti-Semitic, views articulated by Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar, and while we were disturbed to learn that their planned itinerary was completely unbalanced, there is simply no excuse for any country, including Israel, to prevent travel by elected officials of the United States,” the statement said.
Commenting, Rep. Ayanna Pressley called Omar and Tlaib “sisters in service,” saying “we should reevaluate our relationships with any country who seeks to ban Americans and threatens the safety of anyone, including government officials.” Pressley is a member of the group of four congresswomen — including Tlaib, Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who call themselves “the Squad.”
In a statement she said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “is stoking division and punishing dissent just like the occupant of the White House.”
Additional reporting by Kadia Goba.