Israel has barred US lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting the country over their support for BDS, which was no secret. The move comes just prior to their planned trip, after President Trump panned the initiative.
Though the two representatives had discussed an upcoming political visit to Israel in recent weeks, those plans have now been scrapped, with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announcing Thursday that the Democratic lawmakers’ support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement disqualified them from visiting.
“Israel has decided – we won’t enable the members of Congress to enter the country,” Hotovely told Israeli broadcaster Kan. “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netayanhu explained the decision by stating that Omar and Tlaib, who represent the states of Minnesota and Michigan respectively, seek to “harm” Israel.
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While the exact cause of the sudden reversal is unclear – as neither Omar and Tlaib have been mum about their endorsement of the BDS movement, and Tel Aviv had previously appeared ready to allow the visit – pressure from the White House seems a likely culprit.
Earlier on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that allowing the visit would “show great weakness,” arguing the lawmakers “hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
“They are a disgrace!” he added.
Hotovely’s announcement kicked off a flurry of criticism – though, notably, a portion of the ire was directed toward President Trump over his meddling in the affair, prompting some to ask who’s really in charge in Tel Aviv.
Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) voiced disapproval, in a rare public critique of Israeli policy.
Tel Aviv has introduced a spate of legislation targeting BDS supporters over the years. In 2017, the Knesset passed an amendment explicitly banning any foreigner who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country.
The BDS movement seeks to bring international pressure on Israel by organizing boycotts of the country’s exports, foreign divestment from Israeli companies, as well as trade sanctions – hoping to force Israel to end its decades-long occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and to respect the rights and autonomy of Palestinians.