While President Donald Trump stoked tensions between two Democratic U.S. congresswomen and the state of Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) from visiting the country and the Palestinian territories, according to NPR.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the country would refuse entry to “those who reject our right to exist in the world,” according to Israeli radio.
“The two-member congressional visitation plan shows that their intent is to hurt Israel and increase its unrest against it,” Netanyahu claimed, according to The Hill. "However, if Congresswoman Tlaib filed a humanitarian request to meet her family members, subject to a commitment that she would not act to promote the boycotts against Israel, the interior minister announced he would consider this request.” Rep. Tlaib is of Palestinian descent; she memorably wore a traditional Palestinian thobe for her swearing-in as Congresswoman.
Both representatives are vocal critics of President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Trump’s seemingly unequivocal support of Israel — particularly by voting against a nonbinding resolution condemning a Palestinian-led movement that advocates for boycotting, divestment, and sanctions directed at Israel for its occupation of the West Bank and violations of human rights against Palestinian people, according to The Atlantic. Trump, tweeting that Israel would be “weak” to let the Congresswomen into the country, only stoked the controversy further.
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit,” Trump tweeted on Thursday, August 15. He also conflated their past stances to serve as his own propaganda, falsely claiming: “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
Other politicians and allies have since condemned Trump's rhetoric. "It is disgusting that a bigot like Trump is attacking [Rep. Tlaib] and [Rep. Omar] in this way," Senator Bernie Sanders said on Twitter about Trump's weaponization of anti-Semitism to promote his own xenophobic agenda. "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."
The block, which comes as a reversal from a previous decision to admit the representatives, only bans the politicians during official visits, according to the New York Times. Israel officials said on Friday, August 16 that Tlaib, the first Palestinian American elected to Congress, would be allowed to visit her 90-year-old grandmother as long as she promised to “not promote boycotts” during her visit.
But Tlaib won’t be visiting her grandmother, she wrote in a Tweet sent on Friday, August 16.
“When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions,” Tlaib tweeted. “I can't allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”
Omar, who, along with Tlaib was one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, echoed Tlaib’s statement.
“It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government,” Omar wrote.