Last week, 41 Democratic members of Congress visited Israel, and 31 Republicans are currently there now, reports the Jerusalem Post. Such routine visits don't generate much attention. By contrast, the proposed visit of two more members of Congress very much surfaced as a source of international headlines—because those two members happen to be Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, vocal critics of Israel. On Thursday, Benjamin Netanyahu's government officially banned the pair, after being pressured by President Trump to do just that. Coverage:
- About-face: Last month, Israel Ambassador Ron Dermer said the pair would be allowed to visit, but Prime Minister Netanyahu began signaling over the past week that he might reverse course, reports the Washington Post. It became official on Thursday. "The decision has been made; the decision is not to allow them to enter," said Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Reshet Radio. The congresswomen were due to arrive on Friday, and the decision will not sit well with Democratic leaders of Congress.
- The rationale: A new law allows Israel to bar people who support the movement to boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, per the Wall Street Journal. Omar and Tlaib clearly qualify, as both have publicly backed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. (Omar also has been formally rebuked by fellow House Democrats for using "anti-Semitic tropes.")
- Netanyahu: "Congressmen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting boycott legislation against Israel in the US Congress," he tweeted. (Translation, via USA Today.) "Only a few days ago, we received their visitation plan, and it became clear that they were planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and negate Israel's legitimacy."