Israel Bars Reps. Omar and Tlaib From Entering After Pressure From Trump
Do you support Israel barring U.S. Congresswomen from entering the country?
by Axios | 8.15.19
Following pressure from President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backtracked on his decision to allow Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to enter the country and is barring the congresswomen over their support for the BDS movement.
"Israel has decided — we won’t enable the members of Congress to enter the country. 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." —Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
Why it matters: Netanyahu's reversal creates an unprecedented moment — an ally of the United States has banned two duly elected members of Congress from entering its country. It could cause a huge crisis with the Democratic Party and damage the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The big picture: Axios' Jonathan Swan and I reported this weekend that Trump was unhappy with Netanyahu’s decision to allow Omar and Tlaib into the country, telling his advisers that Israel should bar the congresswomen. On Thursday, he tweeted that it would show "great weakness" if Israel allowed them in, claiming that the lawmakers "hate Israel and all Jewish people."
Yesterday, I reported that Israel was concerned Omar and Tlaib would try to visit Jerusalem's Temple Mount — the most important holy site for Jews and third-most important for Muslims around the world — with Palestinian officials.
- Netanyahu had cited his respect for Congress in his decision several weeks ago to allow Omar and Tlaib to enter. In addition, Tlaib has family in the West Bank and is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants.
- The pair of congresswomen were expected to arrive in Israel on Friday.
- Some of the latest details of this saga were first reported by the Washington Post.
Behind the scenes: Israeli officials told me that in the last 48 hours there has been a shift in Netanyahu’s position on the issue due to messages he received from the White House. Netanyahu’s national security adviser has asked different government agencies f0r their opinion on whether Omar and Tlaib should enter. That request was strange because the relevant government agencies already said last week they supported letting them in.
- The officials told me Netanyahu was leaning Wednesday toward barring Omar and Tlaib — and the Israeli embassy in Washington had started notifying senior House Democrats, causing counter-pressure from Democrats who warned Israeli officials that such a decision will create a deep crisis with the party.
According to Israeli officials, Netanyahu was trying to find a solution that will address the pressure from the White House but will not totally bar Omar and Tlaib.
- As of 5 a.m. EDT, no decision had been made. One of the possibilities floated would be allowing the congresswomen to enter Israel but limiting their movements only to the Palestinian Authority.
- Another option was to allow them in on humanitarian grounds. An Israeli official told me that if Tlaib filed a humanitarian request to visit her relatives, the Israeli government will consider it favorably.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to show that Israel followed through on its decision to bar Omar and Tlaib.
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