Lawmakers and activists across the political spectrum deplored the Israeli government’s decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., from entering the country at the urging of President Trump.
Those opposing the move included some allies of the administration, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, are outspoken critics of both Israel and Trump, and members of the so-called “Squad” of four progressive freshmen U.S. congresswomen — Omar, Tlaib and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. — who have been a target of Trump’s tweets.
The lawmakers had planned a trip to visit Palestinian cities on the West Bank. The Israeli government previously had said it would not block the trip.
Ocasio-Cortez criticized both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump for blocking Omar and Tlaib’s visit.
Members of Congress “are frequently asked to visit Israel to ‘see things for ourselves,’” she tweeted. “But Netanyahu choosing to ban the only 2 Muslim women in Congress from entering tells the U.S. that only some Americans are welcome to Israel, not all.”
She added: “Trump is exporting his bigotry & making matters worse.”
Pressley tweeted her dismay with the ban shortly after it was announced.
“I’m calling this like I see it: bigoted, short sighted and cruel,” she wrote. “Any leader committed to advancing democracy would welcome with open arms two democratically elected United States Congresswomen. And every single member of Congress should be calling this out.”
“I disagree 100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel & am the author of the #AntiBDS bill we passed in the Senate,” Rubio tweeted. “But denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake. Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.”
“It is disgusting that a bigot like Trump is attacking @RashidaTlaib and @IlhanMN in this way,” Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted. “Opposing Netanyahu’s policies is not ‘hating the Jewish people.’ We must stand together against those who promote hatred and racism in Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and everywhere.”
On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit.”
“They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds,” the president added. “Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
About an hour later, Israel announced its decision to bar their visit.
“There is no country in the world that respects the U.S. and the U.S. Congress more than the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception: Israel’s law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Netanyahu’s decision a “sign of weakness” and “beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel.”
Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, came to Israel’s defense.
“Israel, like every sovereign country, has the right to decide who can enter and who cannot enter, who must stay and who must leave,” Ayalon tweeted. “The U.S. administration recommended accordingly, and the Israeli government rightfully decided to accept that recommendation.”
AIPAC issued a rare dissent from Israeli policy.
“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” the group said in a statement. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”
The American Jewish Congress released a similar statement.
“While we are under no illusions about the implacably hostile views of Reps. Omar and Tlaib on Israel-related issues, we nonetheless believe that the costs in the U.S. of barring the entry of two members of Congress may prove even higher than the alternative,” the statement read.
Tlaib, who was planning to visit her grandmother in a West Bank village on the trip, said Netanyahu’s decision to bar his critics was “a sign of weakness” because “the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”
Netanyahu said the government would consider allowing Tlaib to visit her relatives as a “humanitarian” gesture, provided she refrained from promoting the boycott.
Omar called the decision “an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.”
It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government.— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) August 15, 2019
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/v00ESmehXT
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