ISRAEL has blocked two outspoken American lawmakers from visiting the country – following a plea from Donald Trump not to let them in.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who are both high-profile critics of his government.
Ilhan Omar described Israel’s ban as ‘an insult to democratic values’[/caption]
President Trump tweeted it would have shown “great weakness” if the pair – part of the so-called ‘squad’ – were allowed entry into Israel.
Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, are sharp critics both of Trump and of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
Omar described Israel’s ban as “an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation”.
Trump earlier took to Twitter to urge that the two pair be blocked from visiting, adding “they hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds”.
Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement over Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Under Israeli law BDS backers can be denied entry to Israel, however Israel had initially chosen to allow the visit.
A source who took part in consultations Netanyahu held with his advisers on Wednesday told Reuters that Israel backtracked due to the pressure from Trump.
“In a discussion held two weeks ago all the officials were in favour of letting them in but, after Trump’s pressure, they reversed the decision,” the source said.
Asked if he had spoken to Netanyahu about the planned visit, Trump told reporters: “I don’t want to comment about who I spoke to, but I think my social media statement pretty well speaks for itself.”
“But I did speak to people over there,” he added.
Trump has in recent months accused Tlaib, Omar and two other first-term Democratic congresswomen – dubbed ‘the squad’ – of hostility to Israel.
Omar is a favourite target and at a recent rally in North Carolina, Trump supporters chanted “send her back” after he falsely accused her of supporting al Qaeda.
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Tlaib – the first member of the US Congress of Palestinian descent – was born in Michigan, and Omar is from Minnesota but was born in Somalia.
After the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted against the boycott against Israel movement in July, Tlaib criticised the country as “racist”.
“I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel,” she said.
Democrat representative Rashida Tlaib has labelled Israel ‘racist’[/caption]
Gang of four: Who are the 'squad' of Democrat congresswomen targeted by Trump
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, 29
The Bronx-born former bartender is the charismatic star of the class of 2018.
She has turned her massive social media following into a measure of power on Capitol Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, has clashed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the influence of newcomers.
She’s also been courted by some of the party’s many presidential candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
To Trump, she tweeted: “Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, 36
Omar was a child when her family fled civil war in Somalia in 1991.
She spent years in a refugee camp in Kenya and immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 1995.
Omar became eligible for citizenship five years after the family entered and became a US citizen in 2000.
In the House, she has repeatedly run up against more senior Democrats over her remarks about Israel and what she said was the need to question the Jewish state’s influence in Washington.
To Trump, she tweeted: “The only country we swear an oath to is the United States. Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, 42
The Detroit native is the first Palestinian American elected to the House.
She and Omar are the first Muslim American women to serve in the chamber.
And like Omar, Tlaib made a name for herself almost immediately after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the new session of Congress into session in January.
That night, Tlaib was videotaped talking to a liberal group saying of Trump: “We’re gonna impeach the motherf***er.”
No such effort is underway even now, in large part because Pelosi and other Democrats don’t see bipartisan public sentiment for doing so.
To Trump, Tlaib tweeted: “Keep talking, you just make me work harder. I’m proud of my Palestinian roots & a WEAK bully like you never wins.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, 45
A Cincinnati native raised in Chicago, Pressley worked for Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy and worked for John Kerry for 13 years while he served in the Senate.
In 2009, she ran for an at-large seat on Boston City Council and became the first woman of colour elected to the body in its 100-year history.
Of Trump’s tweets, she responded: “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.”
Mr Trump earlier took to Twitter to urge that the two pair be blocked from visiting[/caption]