Israel to block visit by Democratic Reps. Tlaib and Omar

In a highly unusual move, coming a week after a visit of several dozen U.S. lawmakers, the Israeli Government has decided not to allow two Democratic members of Congress to enter the country this weekend, noting the anti-Israel statements of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Not long before the news was official, President Donald Trump tweeted his support.

"It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit," the President wrote on Twitter. "They hate Israel and all Jewish people."

In Jerusalem, the President's Ambassador to Israel applauded the move by the Israeli government.

"The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is not free speech," said U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who said the Netanyahu government 'has every right' to block Omar and Tlaib from traveling into Israel.

"The United States supports and respects the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry to the Tlaib/Omar delegation," the Ambassador added.

While Mr. Trump labeled the two Democrats a 'disgrace,' their colleagues in Congress said the Israeli move was a mistake by the Netanyahu government.

“Sadly, this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump,” said Rep. Omar in a written statement.

“Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must have forgotten the Democracy memo  in an open and free society just because someone is critical of you it doesn't give you the right to curtail their rights," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).

Even some prominent Republicans broke with the President and the Israeli Government, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

"Nobody has to agree with their opinions, but it will inevitably harm U.S.-Israel relations if members of Congress are banned from the country," said Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI).

The move also drew opposition from the largest pro-Israel group in the United States.

“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,” said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” the group added.

Another pro-Jewish group, the American Jewish Committee, issued a statement saying that while they oppose the sentiments of lawmakers like Tlaib and Omar, "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."

“Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

"This is a craven, partisan, racist weaponization of the US-Israel relationship that will do lasting damage," said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).

“I am stunned and outraged that Israel, our supposed ally, is barring entry to duly elected Members of the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

“Banning elected members of Congress hurts our alliance,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI).

"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," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

"Not allowing Reps Omar and Talib to enter Israel would be a grave mistake," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). "Cooler heads must prevail."

"Banning members of Congress from visiting Israel, where they can see facts on the ground with their own eyes, is counterproductive and plays into President Trump’s goal of politicizing support for Israel," said Halie Soifer, a top official with the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

"First he tells Congresswoman Tlaib to "go back" to "her" country, and then he tells that country not to let her in," said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), as Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress.

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