Israel will not allow US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) into the country because of their vocal BDS advocacy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.Netanyahu issued a statement saying that no country in the world respects the US Congress more than Israel, but that Isaeli law prohibits entry to those calling for a boycott of the country. He said that other countries as well – including the US – bar entry to those who are perceived to want to harm them.He said that Israel is a “vibrant and free democracy” that is open to all criticism, with the exception of a call for boycotts.“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting boycott legislation against Israel in the US Congress,” Netanyahu said.He said that Israel received their itinerary only a few days ago, and it became clear that they were “planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and to undermine Israel's legitimacy.”He pointed out that they referred to the visit as a visit to “Palestine,” and not to Israel, and – as opposed to all other Democratic and Republican representatives in the past – did not request any meeting with official Israeli representatives, either from the government or the opposition.Netanyahu said that the NGO that is sponsoring the trip – Miftah – is a fervent advocate of BDS and includes members who have supported terrorism against Israel.The prime minister said that the decision to bar entry was made by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and that he supports the decision.In 2017 the Knesset passed an anti-BDS law that blocks foreign BDS activists from gaining entry to Israel. The law, however, has only been implemented sporadically.Deri also issued a statement on the matter, saying the congresswomen use their high-profile positions to support BDS organizations advocating boycotts of Israel.“The State of Israel respects the US Congress, as part of the close alliance between the two countries, but it is inconceivable that anyone who intends to harm the State of Israel will be allowed in,” the statement read. Deri made clear that if Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank, requests entry for humanitarian reasons to meet with her family -- subject to the appropriate obligations -- he would consider.Both Netanyahu and Deri’s statements came shortly after US President Donald Trump publicly urged Israel to bar the two lawmakers – the first two female Muslims in Congress – tweeting: “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely confirmed that Israel will not allow US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib from entering Israel."Israel has decided," she said. "We will not allow the congresswomen to enter the country. We will not allow anyone who denies our right to exist in the world to enter the country. In principle, this is a very correct decision."Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that he supports the ban "due to their blatant support for the boycott of the State of Israel, terrorism against Israel and minimizing the Holocaust."Furthermore, the planned visit they have prepared is entirely aimed at provocation and incitement against the State of Israel, and not to study the State of Israel's activities," he said. "A self-respecting state does not allow those who undermine its existence to enter its borders and continue incitement."Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid slammed the decision, saying the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows the decision is a mistake. "Netanyahu knows it's a mistake not to let them in," Gantz told Reshet bet radio. "He deals with internal politics instead of what's good for the State of Israel. It will create a crisis with the Democratic Party."