Israel will bar Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country as part of a landmark visit, in a move that is already fueling a political firestorm in Washington.
Omar and Tlaib — the first two Muslim women in Congress — were slated to arrive this weekend, but President Donald Trump had lobbied Israeli leaders to bar them from entering the country and lashed out again at the pair on Thursday.
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The controversial decision announced by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely comes despite pleas from top lawmakers in both parties to allow the delegation visit to take place.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who returned from his own visit to Israel this month, repeatedly asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders to allow the freshman lawmakers to enter the country, only to be rejected. Hoyer and other pro-Israel Democrats like Brad Schneider and Josh Gottheimer also personally lobbied Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., on Wednesday to allow the visit.
And the trip got a bipartisan endorsement after Hoyer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced their support for the Omar-Tlaib visit during a press conference last week in Jerusalem.
But Trump slammed Tlaib and Omar — two fierce critics of the president who have called for his impeachment — on Twitter Thursday morning and encouraged Israel to block them.
“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,” Trump said. “Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
Omar’s office declined to comment, while aides to Tlaib did not respond to requests for comment.
The trip by the two Democratic freshmen would be historic. Tlaib has long touted the trip as an alternative to the annual AIPAC-funded trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, which pro-Palestinian advocates have argued is intended to promote Israel’s political positions.
Israeli leaders said they will deny the lawmakers’ entry into the country because of their support for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is intended to force Israel to improve its treatment of the Palestinians.
Most Democrats have strongly rejected the BDS effort, and the House passed a resolution last month on a 398-17 vote condemning the movement. Omar and Tlaib were among the lawmakers to oppose the measure.
Thursday’s announcement marks a dramatic reversal from last month, when Dermer said: “Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.”
The move threatens to expose a new rift on Capitol Hill over Israel.
Progressive champions Omar and Tlaib have sharply criticized Israel’s political influence in Washington and they’ve faced charges of anti-Semitism. Both freshman Democrats, but Omar in particular, have become a favorite target of Trump and conservative media.
Democrats, meanwhile, counter that it is Trump who is fueling a rise in white nationalism and anti-Semitism with his divisive racial rhetoric.