TEL AVIV—Israel on Thursday barred U.S. congresswomen
from entering the country following pressure from President Trump, who said allowing them entry “would show great weakness.”
The freshman Democrats were supposed to arrive this weekend and had planned visits to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah, generating controversy because of their criticism of Israeli policy toward Palestinians.
On Israel’s public radio Thursday afternoon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister
cited the congresswomen’s support for boycotting Israel as the reason for blocking their visit. Israel can block them under recent legislation that denies entry to people who support the boycott movement against Israel.
Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar have said they support the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, which advocates for countries, businesses and consumers to punish Israel with a goal of changing its policies toward the Palestinians.
The offices of Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
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Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Thursday: “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” Before the tweet, the White House had denied that Mr. Trump tried to intervene.
Mr. Trump’s tweet marked an unusual request by a president to an American ally to crack down on his political rivals. The tweet came as Israel’s government had said it was considering blocking the representatives’ visit came after the Israeli Embassy in Washington said the government would allow the trip out of respect for the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Blocking the liberal congresswomen is likely to prompt a fierce backlash from Democrats and some Jewish groups. Mr. Trump has frequently attacked the lawmakers, in part over their views on Israel, for which he said they should apologize.
Some Israeli officials pointed to the lawmakers’ decision to skip official meetings in Israel as support for their decision to block them.
said the schedule was “intended entirely for provocations and incitement against the state of Israel.”
The lawmakers have said they planned to visit to better understand conditions on the ground to inform their legislative decisions. Ms. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who represents Detroit, was also expected to visit family members in the West Bank.
An Israeli official had said Ms. Tlaib’s request to visit “would be considered favorably” if she submitted a humanitarian application to visit her family. Under that scenario, Ms. Omar would have been excluded from the visit.
Ms. Omar, who represents the Minneapolis area, has said lawmakers’ support for Israel is motivated by money, which critics slammed as anti-Semitic. She later apologized for the comments. Ms. Tlaib has said Israel’s policies are racist and dehumanizing.
Along with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar make up a group of freshmen Democrats who have banded together around their liberal views on foreign and social policies, dubbing themselves the Squad.
Last week during a visit to Israel, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif). said Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar should be allowed to visit the country. ““I think it would be helpful for anyone that has an opinion to come,” he said.
Mr. Trump has criticized them on Twitter and at his rallies. He urged the four of them to “go back” where they came from. They were all born in the U.S., except Ms. Omar, who is a naturalized citizen from Somalia.
Israel recently invoked its anti-boycott law to try to deport
an American citizen who is Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories. He has appealed the decision to Israel’s Supreme Court but a hearing on the matter scheduled for July has been delayed.
Last year, Israel’s Supreme Court overruled the Interior Ministry and ordered the government to allow American student Lara Alqasem into the country. Israel sought to deport her because of pro-Palestinian advocacy while she studied at the University of Florida.
Shireen Taleeb, a first cousin of Ms. Tlaib who lives in Ramallah and helped plan her trip, said, “It would be frustrating for us if she couldn’t come. It would be very disappointing.”
—Dov Lieber in Tel Aviv and Andrew Restuccia in Washington contributed to this article.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com
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