Israel announced on Thursday that it will not let Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar enter the country. A spokesman for deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely confirmed the decision to CNN, but did not specify when or how the call was made.
During their brief time in Congress, Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to the House, have become well-known for their harsh criticisms of Israel’s government. Both are strong supporters of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS, which proposes that governments and businesses shun Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and for building settlements in the West Bank, a practice forbidden by international law. Omar and Tlaib were two of 17 representatives to vote against a House motion condemning BDS earlier this year. Omar has also drawn widespread condemnation for multiple comments that many viewed as anti-Semitic, and which drew criticism from some fellow Democrats.
The two were planning to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron, where they would meet with peace activists and human-rights organizers, with Tlaib staying on for two days to visit her grandmother in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta.
In 2017, Israel passed a widely criticized law dictating that anyone who supports the BDS movement could be blocked from entering the country.
Last month, U.S. ambassador Ron Dermer said that Israel would not bar entry to any American lawmaker, “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.” The Washington Post reports that American pro-Israel groups — most likely code for the powerful AIPAC — have also expressed discomfort with Netanyahu’s tactic. While applying the rule in such a high-profile case will undoubtedly spark an uproar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces his second election in six months after he was unable to form a government in the spring, may care more about placating Israel’s hard right than anything else. And he’s got one at least key American ally on his side: President Trump, in full unhinged mode:
The controversy over Omar’s posture toward Israel has largely died down in recent weeks. Now that Israel has blocked her from entering the country, it may be resuscitated — but this time, it’s hard to imagine that Democrats won’t leap to her defense over the imposition of a transparently undemocratic move by one of American’s staunchest allies.
This post was updated after Israel confirmed the ban.