The government of Israel announced Thursday it will bar Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country after weeks of speculation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would ban the pair from Israel and, by proxy, the Occupied Territories.
U.S. President Donald Trump urged the Israeli government to stand fast, repeating baseless accusations of anti-Semitism against the pair.
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. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
"This is authoritarian behavior," journalist Rania Khalek said of Israel's decision in a tweet.
Israeli news outlet i24 News also reported that the Netanyahu government was prepared to announce the two congresswomen were banned from the country:
The decision, made by Minister Aryeh Deri, has not been released to the public but is expected soon.
As final deliberations on the matter are currently making its way through the Interior Ministry, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to encourage the Israeli government not to back down.
In a statement, Tlaib and Omar's fellow member of "The Squad," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), said that she stood with her colleagues.
"They are duly elected members of Congress and we cannot allow them to be marginalized, discriminated against, nor targeted because of their gender, their religious beliefs, nor their ethnicity," said Pressley. " That is not who we are as a country and we should reevaluate our relationships with any country who seeks to ban Americans and threatens the safety of anyone, including government officials."
To some observers, however, barring two Muslim American members of Congress from entering the country was just the next step in Israel's march toward an undemocratic future.
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"Banning U.S. Congress members is yet another new low as this country abandons all but the pretenses of democracy," tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald, noting the decision was made in part due to the urging of President Donald Trump.
Israel has been banning critics, including Jewish ones, from entering Israel (& the West Bank) for years. Banning US Congress members is yet another new low as this country abandons all but the pretenses of democracy. The Trump Admin urged this but I doubt it took much work: https://t.co/93FGyJ9ulv— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 15, 2019
"Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a U.S. congresswomen," said Odeh. "Rashida Tlaib didn't even have to land to expose the true face of Israel's occupation."
Tlaib and Omar planned to visit Palestine Saturday as part of a delegation to the occupied region organized by Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, as an alternative to the AIPAC-funded tour of Israel led by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that wrapped earlier this month. Hoyer, according to Washington Post reporter John Hudson, "has been running point for the Democrats in urging the Israelis to reconsider the decision to block Omar and Tlaib."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has been running point for the Democrats in urging the Israelis to reconsider the decision to block Omar and Tlaib. He pressed the Israelis on Wednesday but it remains unclear what Netanyahu will decide. An announcement is expected shortly.— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) August 15, 2019
The reason for Hoyer's activism, said Hudson, is simple: barring Tlaib and Omar, the latter a Democrat from Minnesota, sends a message that's antithetical to the popular perception of Israel amongst Democratic leaders.
"Some in the Democratic leadership believe blocking Omar and Tlaib is a bad idea," Hudson tweeted before Thursday's decision was made public, "because such moves are not emblematic of a country that touts itself as the Middle East's sole democracy, a place tolerant of political expression and criticism."
More than anything, Israeli-American journalist Mairav Zonszein said on Twitter, the decision shows that Israel views the two politicians as the sum of their identities before respecting their office.
"It only makes sense that Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are subject to Israeli occupation treatment," said Zonszein. "When they visit, they are not U.S. congresswomen first and foremost, but Muslims, and with a political position."