JERUSALEM (AP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel “is open to all visitors and all criticism,” but will bar entry to two U.S. Democratic congresswomen over their support for boycotts.
Netanyahu’s office issued a statement Thursday saying that based on Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s itinerary for an upcoming visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem, “it became clear that they are planning a trip whose sole purpose was strengthening the boycott and negating the legitimacy of Israel.”
The prime minister said Israel had welcomed 70 Republican and Democratic members of Congress “with open arms,” and that “there’s not a state in the world that respects the United States and the U.S. Congress more than the state of Israel.”
The decision was announced shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow the congresswomen in.
Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and have been the subject of repeated attacks by Trump in recent weeks, including a series of racist tweets last month.
Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are denouncing the decision.
Top ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said Israel’s decision to block Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are Muslims, was a sign of weakness instead of strength and “will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America.”
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