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Israel will ban entry to outspoken US congresswomen, official says

In this Feb. 5, 2019, file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listen to President Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington. Israel's prime minister is holding consultations with senior ministers and aides to reevaluate the decision to allow two Democratic congresswomen to enter the country next week. A government official said Aug. 15, 2019, that Benjamin Netanyahu was holding consultations about the upcoming visit of Omar and Tlaib and that "there is a possibility that Israel will not allow the visit in its current proposed format." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s deputy foreign minister says the government has decided to bar two U.S. Democratic congresswomen who support the international boycott movement from entering the country.

Tzipi Hotovely told Israel Radio in an interview Thursday (Aug. 15) that “Israel has decided not to allow” Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to visit as planned.

Hotovely said the decision is in keeping with a policy of denying entry to those who advocate boycotts of Israel.

Her remarks came shortly after President Trump tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed them in.

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< Trump added, "They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds." Israel has sought to combat the so-called BDS movement, which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. The country passed a law permitting a ban on entry to any activist who "knowingly issues a call for boycotting Israel." Supporters of the boycott movement say it is a nonviolent way to protest Israeli policies and call for Palestinian rights. Critics say the movement aims to erase Israel and replace it with a single binational state. Israel often hosts delegations of U.S. representatives and senators, who usually meet with senior Israeli officials as well as Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank. Last month, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress. The decision to ban the congresswomen could further sharpen divisions among U.S. Democrats over Israel ahead of the 2020 elections. Republicans have amplified the views of left-wing Democrats like Tlaib and Omar to present the party as deeply divided and at odds with Israel. Democratic leaders have pushed back, reiterating the party's strong support for Israel, in part to protect representatives from more conservative districts. In July, the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution against the BDS movement. Tlaib and Omar have also been the target of attacks by Trump in recent months, including a series of racist tweets on July 14 in which he said they should "go back" to the "broken" countries they came from. Both are U.S. citizens and Tlaib was born in the United States. The two are members of the so-called Squad of newly elected left-wing Democrats, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

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Politicians and former diplomats spoke out against barring the congresswomen from visiting after an unconfirmed report that Israel had resolved to bar Omar and Tlaib from entering the country.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro wrote on Twitter that the decision to bar their entry “harms Israel’s standing in the U.S., boosts BDS.”

Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, criticized the move, writing that “Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a U.S. Congresswoman.”

Arthur Lenk, formerly Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, said barring Omar and Tlaib “would be sinking us deeper into U.S. domestic political quagmire.”

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