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Israeli government bans Muslim US Congresswomen from their country after Trump dropped a tweet

Israel disallowed US congresswomen, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering the country, following the prodding of President Donald Trump.

Trump tweeted that it would show “great weakness” on Israel’s part if it allowed the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, to cross its border.

“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. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!” Trump tweeted.

Shortly after Trump’s tweet, reports emerged that Israel would deny entry to the two U.S. congresswomen. It was unclear if the decision came before or after Trump’s tweet.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had reportedly been poised to block Tlaib and Omar from entering the country.

The two congresswomen have criticised his government and voted against a non-binding resolution last month condemning a movement to boycott the Israeli state over its treatment of Palestinians.

A new Israeli law denies entry to the country to people who back such boycotts.

The decision would be a reversal for Israel, which had earlier signalled it would allow the two U.S. lawmakers to enter the country.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said last month that the country would not deny entry to any lawmakers “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.”

Trump’s remarks urging Israel to deny entry to two U.S. lawmakers is all the more notable because congressional leaders in both parties have said that Omar and Tlaib should be allowed to visit Israel.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) during a bipartisan congressional visit to Jerusalem said all U.S. lawmakers should be able to visit Israel. He said everyone should be able to “see what we see,” during an appearance before reporters.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) discussed the visit with Israeli officials Wednesday and urged them to change their decision, according to The Washington Post.

Jeremey Ben-Ami, the president of the pro-Israel group J Street, said that the move to block the House members’ visit was “unacceptable and wrong.”

“This reported decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu is dangerous, unacceptable and wrong. As sitting Members of Congress representing hundreds of thousands of Americans in their districts, Reps. Omar and Tlaib have the same right as every one of their colleagues to visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” Ben-Ami said in a statement.

“We may disagree with the views that the Members hold on such questions as BDS or with Rep. Tlaib on the two-state solution, but the right approach for a state that values democracy is to welcome criticism and debate, not to shut it down.”

Trump has been a steadfast ally of Netanyahu and critic of Tlaib and Omar, who he has repeatedly used as political foils.

The president launched a major controversy earlier this summer when he said Tlaib, Omar and two other congresswomen, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), should “go back” to where they came from. Three of the women were born in the U.S., and Omar is a refugee from Somalia who came to the U.S. decades ago

The trip for the two congresswomen has been planned by a nonprofit organization, Miftah, headed by Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi. The trip was set to take them to Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah as well as Jerusalem to meet with civil society groups, humanitarian workers, young people and hospital workers.

Tlaib planned to extend her stay to see her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank.

Omar and Tlaib have both been both vocal critics of Israel and supporters of the international boycott, divest and sanctions movement against the country.

Omar has raised eyebrows with her remarks on Israel, notably saying U.S. lawmakers’ support for the country is “all about the Benjamins.” Omar maintains the remark was meant to highlight the sway pro-Israel lobbying groups hold in Washington, though critics said the comment touched on anti-Semitic tropes.

*thehill.com

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