Israel Bars Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from Entering the Country

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were slated to arrive in Israel this weekend, but President Donald Trump had lobbied Israeli leaders to bar them from entering the country. | J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP Photo

Israel’s government on Thursday barred Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country as part of a landmark visit, in a move that quickly set off 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 block them from entering the country and lashed out again at the pair on Thursday.

Omar hit back, saying, “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected members of Congress.”

“The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation,” she added in an afternoon statement.

The controversial decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came despite pleas from top lawmakers in both parties to allow the delegation to make its trip. Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the decision, saying she was “deeply saddened” by the move after the Israeli ambassador announced last month that the two lawmakers would be allowed to visit.

“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,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Netanyahu defended his decision, saying he changed his mind after learning more details of their trip earlier this week.

“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress,” Netanyahu said a statement. “Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”

Netanyahu did say that a “humanitarian request” by Tlaib to visit her relatives in the West Bank would be accepted “on the condition that she pledges not to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who led a delegation of dozens of House Democrats to Israel earlier this month, had repeatedly asked Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders to allow the freshman lawmakers to enter the country, only to be rejected.

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SOURCE: Politico, Sarah Ferris, John Bresnahan, and Heather Caygle