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."
Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
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.
Please read my attached statement with regard to the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry to BDS activists, Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, in accordance with its national laws. pic.twitter.com/q9M2N1uRkr— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) August 15, 2019
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).
I disagree 100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel & am the author of the #AntiBDS bill we passed in the Senate— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2019
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.
"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.
The decision to bar @RepRashida and @Ilhan from entering Israel is yet another example of the newfound levels of politicization and disrespect that have taken over U.S.-Israel relations under PM Netanyahu and President Trump. That is the true disgrace here. https://t.co/q61SYRZtgL— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) August 15, 2019
Trump & Netanyahu are afraid to have @reprashida & @ilhan witness first-hand the brutality & dehumanization Israel’s occupation inflicts on the Palestinian people. This bigoted president is working to extend his Muslim travel ban to Members of Congress. https://t.co/hEwL6jmoao— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) August 15, 2019
This Trumped-up ban on our House colleagues is an unacceptable affront to the U.S. Congress & a betrayal of free speech. Strong democracies tolerate dissent & we need dialogue—not boycotts, quarantines & censorship—to arrive at peace & a two-state solution. Reverse this decision!— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) August 15, 2019
Barring Congresswomen @Ilhan and @RepRashida from entering Israel sets a dangerous precedent and is outrageous. This move is motivated purely by politics and ideology. https://t.co/jwE0Ajk7kr— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) August 15, 2019
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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