Ripples as Israel Bans US Congresswomen from Visiting

Israel has taken the extraordinary step of blocking two US Democratic lawmakers and prominent critics of the country from visiting.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.

Both lawmakers have openly supported the boycott movement against Israel, and have now been banned from visiting.

President Donald Trump seemed to set the ball rolling when he tweeted it would show “great weakness” if the pair were allowed entry.

On Thursday, Mr Trump took to Twitter to urge that they be blocked from visiting, adding that “they hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds”.

Israeli law blocks entrance visas to any foreigner who calls for any type of boycott that targets Israel – either economic, cultural or academic, BBC writes.

Their trip to the West Bank was planned by Miftah, an organisation headed by Palestinian peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.

Ms Tlaib was planning to stay for two extra days to visit her grandmother, who lives in a Palestinian village.

President Trump, who has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has frequently feuded with the lawmakers and in remarks widely condemned as racist, told them to “go back” to the countries that their families were from.

Ms Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan, and Ms Omar is from Minnesota but was born in Somalia.

The US ambassador to Israel said in a statement that the US “supports and respects the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry”.

Israel “has every right to protect its borders against those activists in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons,” wrote Ambassador David Friedman.

New Jersey Congressman Tom Malinowski called the decision “disrespectful to Congress” and said during a cross-party congressional trip to Israel last week officials had assured them their colleagues would be allowed to visit.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said “this sad reversal is deeply disappointing”.

She called Israel’s denial “a sign of weakness” and said President Trump’s comments “a sign of ignorance and disrespect”.

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