Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the urging of President Donald Trump, has decided to block US Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from visiting the country next week.
Omar and Tlaib, both prominent Muslims and women of color who are highly critical of the Jewish state, had planned to participate in a private trip organized by a Palestinian-led nonprofit to see Israel and the West Bank, where Tlaib has family.
But Netanyahu, citing the women’s support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, announced on Thursday he would be barring the Congress members from entering the country.
It was a dramatic and unprecedented move that has greatly angered Democrats in the US, and they’re not being shy about their feelings.
“Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a leading 2020 presidential contender.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House majority leader and a pro-Israel member of Congress, said “the action the Israeli government has taken is wrong.”
Other prominent Democrats weighed in as well:
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), speaker of the House
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate majority leader
No democratic society should fear an open debate. Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 15, 2019
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senate Foreign Relations Committee member
I don’t like the way these members often talk about Israel, but a decision to ban congressional critics from Israel would be a big mistake. This will do long term harm to the U.S.-Israel relationship. https://t.co/so6WueB4II
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 15, 2019
Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), 2020 presidential candidate
I’m disappointed that the Prime Minister and his government did this, and it is clear that President Trump pushed him to do so as part of his effort to make Israel policy a partisan wedge to further divide the country.
— John Delaney (@JohnDelaney) August 15, 2019
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), part of the “Squad” with Omar and Tlaib
Israel continues to be a flashpoint for Democrats
The Omar-Tlaib issue underscores just what a complication the US-Israel relationship has become for Democrats.
Poll after poll has shown that liberal Democratic primary voters are less sympathetic to Israel than they were in previous years. Likely as a result, most Democratic presidential campaigns for 2020 have bucked tradition and openly expressed their criticisms of the Middle Eastern nation.
It’s why more progressive Democrats running for president, like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have spoken more critically of Israel writ large and Netanyahu’s policies in particular.
Other more moderate campaigners, like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have been slightly more steadfast in support of the Israel relationship. No one, though, has been quick to back Netanyahu’s leadership.
But the decision to keep out Omar and Tlaib could hurt already strained ties between congressional Democrats and Israel.