Israel bars two US lawmakers from entering country
Tel Aviv - Israel will not allow entry to left-leaning US lawmakers Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, Israel's deputy foreign minister said Thursday, whose planned visit has sparked tense debate.
"We will not allow entry to those who deny our right to exist in the world," Tzipi Hotovely told the Kan television broadcaster.
It remains unclear whether the two lawmakers, who have voiced support for the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, are still planning to try to enter Israel. Media reports said the two are expected to travel either Friday, Saturday or Sunday to Israel.
BDS aims to stop Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories by boycotting Israeli companies and goods.
Hotovely's announcement came shortly after US President Donald Trump said it would "show great weakness" if Israel allowed them to visit.
"They hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds," Trump tweeted.
Calling the two Democratic members of the US House of Representatives "a disgrace," Trump said their home states, Michigan and Minnesota, "will have a hard time putting them back in office."
Israel's government in 2018 decided to ban visits from activists of certain organizations that had called for the boycott of Israel, accusing the BDS movement of anti-Semitism and singling out the Jewish state.
Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, are reportedly planning a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem along with Palestinian representatives. The Temple Mount is one of the holiest sites in the Jewish and Islamic faiths.
There are concerns of diplomatic repercussions if the Israeli government follows through on its decision to bar their entry.
Omar, whose press office would not confirm the visit, has been an outspoken supporter of ending the Palestinian occupation and come in for criticism in the United States for what some describe as anti-Semitic views. In February she was forced to apologize for alleging that Israeli money influenced the actions of Congress.
But Omar and Tlaib have also been subject to discrimination themselves. They were two of four left-leaning lawmakers told to "go back" to where they came from by President Donald Trump.
Omar was born in Somalia and brought to the US by her parents as a child. Tlaib was born in Detroit and is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants to the United States.dpa