MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Prime Minister of Israel says Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is not welcome in the country.
Benjamin Netanyahu blocked an upcoming trip Reps. Omar and Rashida Tlaib were planning to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Both are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and support a boycott of the country.
The unprecedented ban was encouraged by President Donald Trump.
"It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit," Trump tweeted.
The President added that the two Democratic congresswomen, who were the first Muslim women elected to Congress, "hate Israel and all Jewish people." He called them a "disgrace."
Omar was at Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's budget address. When she briefly stepped out, she did not comment, but she later issued a statement saying:
"It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government. Trump's Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress."
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, also commented on the decision.
"We are disappointed that at this point two members of Congress won't have an opportunity to visit Israel," Hunegs said.
But Hunegs says given Omar's and Congresswoman Tlaib's support for a boycott of Israel, Israel's banning a visit by them is understandable.
AIPAC, a national Jewish lobbying group, also issued a statement denouncing the Israeli government's decision.
Political analysts dispute the President's tweet that both women will have hard time getting reelected. Professor David Schultz of Hamline University said,
"His repeated attacks against her have led to her raising $2 million or more dollars, she has no challenger in site," Schultz said. "Ilhan Omar can probably thank president trump, who just about guaranteed her reelection."
The escalation of the Omar- Trump battle continues to elevate Rep. Omar's national and even international profile. With just 15 months until the election, there is no major opponent who is running against her in one of the most Democratic districts in the entire country.
While Professor Schultz says at this point it appears likely Congresswoman Omar is headed toward reelection, he says President Trump may be speaking out against her to energize his supporters outside her district in Minnesota, a state he has repeatedly said he expects to win in 2020.
In Minnesota, Omar has come under criticism from Jewish constituents for not being clear on where she stands on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Earlier this year, she also received bipartisan pushback for comments that some deemed antisemitic.
Omar's statement in full:
"It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government. Trump's Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress. Denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories. Sadly, this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.
"As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it is my job to conduct oversight of foreign aid from the United States of America and to legislate on human rights practices around the world. The irony of the 'only democracy' in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation."
JCRC's statement in full:
"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) is disappointed by the Israeli government's decision not to allow Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel and the West Bank. While we strongly disagree with Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib's support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel and had significant concerns regarding the planned trip, which was reportedly titled 'U.S. Congressional Delegation to Palestine,' we believe allowing the two Representatives to visit was consistent with their status as members of Congress, and Israel's democratic character.
"Had Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib been allowed to visit, the onus would have been on them to either experience Israel in all of its complexity, including its robust ideological, ethnic, and religious diversity, or simply seek out experiences which reinforced their negative preconceptions.
"For our part, the JCRC is proud of our efforts to educate about Israel, which includes bringing elected officials from across the political spectrum to engage with a nation and people whose security and future are of paramount importance to our local Jewish community."
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