Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has banned two Democratic U.S. congresswomen from visiting the country and the Palestinian territories this weekend, according to a government official.
Israeli radio reported that, in an interview, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the country would bar entry to, “those who reject our right to exist in the world.”
The move, which marks a reversal for Netanyahu and his government, comes after President Trump publicly urged the Israeli leader over Twitter to block Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., saying it would be showing, “weakness” if they were allowed to visit.
“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.
The two congresswomen have been vocal critics of the Israeli government and President Trump’s unwavering support of Netanyahu. They also voted against a nonbinding resolution condemning a Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions in Israel.
But as recently as last month, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said Tlaib and Omar would be allowed to visit Israel “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.”
MIFTAH, the group that helped organize the lawmakers’ trip, called the ban “a clear case of discrimination and hostility based on political views and ethnic background, deserving of moral indignation and unequivocal condemnation in Palestine and the United States.”
Officials said they had worked hard to organize a well-rounded visit for the congresswomen, as well as Rep. Stacey Plakett, D-Virgin Islands, “in order to facilitate their engagement with Palestinian civil society and to provide them with an opportunity to see the reality of occupation for themselves.”
Trump ignited a massive controversy last month after he lashed out Tlaib and Omar, as well as freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortz and Ayanna Pressely, tweeting that they should “go back” to where they came from and that he doesn’t believe they are “capable” of loving the country.
Several pro-Israel groups promptly criticized the decision, including J Street. President Jeremy Ben-Ami called it “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.