US lawmakers have slammed President Donald Trump after he asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deny two Muslim congresswomen entrance to Israel for a fact-finding visit.
Israel on Thursday listened to Trump and barred Ilhan Omar, a representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, and Rashida Tlaib, a representative for Michigan’s 13th congressional district from traveling to the occupied territories over their support for a boycott of the Tel Aviv regime.
Trump expressed his support of Israel’s decision and accused them of harboring hatred toward “Israel & all Jewish people.”
“I think it’s very disgraceful, the things they’ve said,” Trump told reporters on Thursday evening. “They’ve become the face of the Democrat Party.”
Congressional lawmakers warned that the highly unusual Israeli move threatens to upend relations between the United States and Israel. Some described the development as unprecedented.
“I can’t think of any other president, Democrat or Republican, doing something as outrageous as this,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “If this is just providing cover for Netanyahu, that’s wrong. If this is Donald Trump playing politics, that’s wrong.”
“Once again, Donald Trump is denigrating the office of the presidency,” he added.
“Israel should stand up to President Trump and allow our colleagues to visit,” tweeted Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a Palestinian American who left the Republican Party this year after declaring Trump should be impeached.
“Nobody has to agree with their opinions, but it will inevitably harm U.S.-Israel relations if members of Congress are banned from the country,” Amash added. “We must find ways to come together; there’s enough division.”
Robert Danin, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that it’s “unprecedented to have a president urge a foreign country not to welcome two elected members of the United States Congress to their country.”
Danin, a former career State Department official, said it was “embarrassing” for Netanyahu to be seen as bowing to Trump’s demands.
“I think it’s worrisome on a number of fronts,” said Danin. “It’s worrisome for the U.S.-Israel relationship. It’s further politicizing the relationship between Israel and the United States in U.S. politics.”
“He’s trying to do harm to the Democratic Party,” Danin said of Trump. “Normally, we have a tradition of keeping politics at the water’s edge.”
Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), the head of the Democrats’ messaging arm, said, “This is a grave mistake by the Israeli government.”
A number of 2020 Democratic candidatures, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), also slammed Israel over the decision.
“Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” Warren tweeted. “This would be a shameful, unprecedented move. I urge Israel’s government to allow @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib entry.”
Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views. This would be a shameful, unprecedented move. I urge Israel’s government to allow @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib entry.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 15, 2019
Anti-Semitism is not some abstract idea to me. It is very personal. It destroyed a good part of my family. I absolutely reject Trump’s disgusting efforts to exploit fear of anti-Semitism to attack my colleagues. pic.twitter.com/IwpSmxcnHF
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 15, 2019
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, condemned both Trump and Netanyahu, saying the decision to block the lawmakers’ visit is “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 an email.
“It is an affront to Congress and the American people and does severe damage to the US-Israel relationship — and it must be reversed immediately.”
Omar, with a Somali origin and Tlaib, with Palestinian roots, have openly supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and been outspoken in their criticism of the Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
The movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations and later became international.