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Israel bars Omar, Tlaib from entering country, as Trump lashes out

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Israel on Thursday barred 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 block them from entering the country and lashed out again at the pair on Thursday.

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.

“The decision has been made. The decision is not to allow them to enter,” Hotovely told an Israeli radio station.

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 Nita Lowey of New York, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Ted Deutch of Florida and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey also personally lobbied Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., 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. Tlaib had planned to see her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. Instead, Hoyer met with Tlaib’s grandmother during his congressional trip.

Senior Democrats, including longtime pro-Israel advocates, blasted the move.

“It is utterly egregious for the Israeli government to deny entry to two sitting members of the United States Congress," said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). "I strongly condemn this decision."

"Democracies are marked by the ability to express opposing views," added Lowey. "By blocking entry by these representatives, the Israeli government is missing an opportunity for engagement in dialogue with those they disagree with, instead empowering those who seek to create a wedge between our two countries."

Democratic presidential candidates also called on Israel to reverse course.

"Israel doesn't advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) "This would be a shameful, unprecedented move."

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 would 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.


Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine





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via DMT.NEWS hcaygle@politico.com (Heather Caygle), Khareem Sudlow