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Former Israeli ambassador says Trump administration encouraged ban on Omar, Tlaib

The White House claims reports of Trump's involvement are "inaccurate."

(Photo Credit: Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images)

The nation of Israel has officially banned Muslim Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from entering the country.

According to Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, the unprecedented denial of entry was apparently President Donald Trump’s idea.

Thursday morning, Trump tweeted his support for blocking the lawmakers from visiting Israel, claiming that because they “hate Israel & all Jewish people,” it would show “great weakness” on Israel’s part to allow them to visit. He added that Omar and Tlaib are “a disgrace.”

Later in the morning, the White House tried to downplay its involvement in the decision. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that “the Israeli government can do what it wants,” but claimed reports that Trump had urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make the decision were “inaccurate.”

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Shortly thereafter, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon, seemed to contradict that claim, suggesting in a tweet that the ban very much came at the recommendation of “the U.S. administration.”

“When the two racist anti-semitic members of Congress refused to visit Israel with Steny Hoyer — whose delegation heard from wide-ranging Israeli & Palestinian leaders on all sides of the spectrum — it became clear their intention isn’t just to visit, but to cause provocations,” Ayalon tweeted.

“Israel, like every sovereign country, has the right to decide who can enter and who cannot enter, who must stay and who must leave. The US administration recommended accordingly, and the Israeli government rightfully decided to accept that recommendation.”

According to Netanyahu, Israel is barring Omar and Tlaib for their support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign to punish Israel financially for its occupation of Palestine and its mistreatment of Palestinian citizens. He believes that their plan to visit shows that “their sole purpose is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”

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Israeli law supports denying entry to supporters of the BDS movement, but the current Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, said just last month that this would not apply to Tlaib and Omar out of respect for the U.S. Congress.

What is conspicuous about the application of this criteria is that Omar and Tlaib are not the only members of Congress who support the BDS movement. When the House took up a resolution condemning BDS last month, they were two of 17 lawmakers who voted against that resolution. Both women, however, happen to be Muslim.

Several weeks ago, Trump repeatedly attacked Tlaib and Omar, along with two other congresswomen of color, telling them to “go back where you came from,” a common racist trope. As part of his attacks, he also weaponized accusations of anti-Semitism, just as he did in his tweet Thursday morning.