Israel’s decision to ban two US Congresswomen from entering the country has been widely criticised in the US, with some Democrats warning the move “threatened to erode US support for its longtime ally”, The Guardian says.
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who were due to visit the West Bank and East Jerusalem next week, have been barred for “negating the legitimacy of Israel”. Both women have supported the boycott campaign against Israel.
The ban came after US President Donald Trump put pressure on Israel to bar the two Democrats, with whom he is involved in an on-going feud.
Trump tweeted: “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. They are a disgrace!”
Later, he repeated the message, telling reporters: “I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in.”
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that the ban sees Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “harm Israel to assuage Trump’s ego” and that the decision means the two leaders have “broken the special relationship between America and Israel”.
Confirming the ban, the Israeli Interior Ministry said it was “inconceivable that those who wish to harm the state of Israel while visiting would be granted entry”.
In a separate statement, Netanyahu said “there is no country in the world that respects the US and the American Congress more than Israel”.
“However, the itinerary showed that the congresswomen’s sole intention was to harm Israel.” They had arranged to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron and meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.
In response to the ban, Omar said: “Sadly, this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.” Tlaib added that the ban showed “weakness”.
Connecting the ban with Trump’s dispute with the two Democrats, the BBC says that a US president “urging another nation to deny entry to US citizens, let alone members of Congress, is unusual in the extreme”, but adds that “in the context of Mr Trump’s on-going feud with these congresswomen… it makes perfect sense”.
The powerful Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, took a stand against Netanyahu’s decision.
“We disagree with Reps Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” the group tweeted. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel first hand.”
Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy. The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in.”