Israel bans two US congresswomen from entering the country after Trump pressure

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Benjamin Netanyahu says Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar want to “negate the legitimacy of Israel”, but faces claims of “weakness”.

Israel has banned two US congresswomen from entering the country for supporting an international boycott movement.

Democrats Rashida Tlaib, whose family immigrated to the US from the West Bank, and Ilhan Omar were barred for “negating the legitimacy of Israel”.

US President Donald Trump had put pressure on his ally Benjamin Netanyahu to block the trip, saying it would have shown “great weakness” to allow it to go ahead.

He has previously targeted the two Muslim women in remarks branded racist, telling them to “go back” to the “broken” countries they came from.

Both are US citizens and Ms Tlaib was born in America.

In what appeared to be an unprecedented move, Mr Netanyahu blocked the politicians’ trip saying it was “clear” the “sole purpose was strengthening the boycott and negating the legitimacy of Israel”.

He added Israel had welcomed 70 members of Congress from both the major parties in the past with “open arms” and there was “not a state in the world” that respects the institution more.

Israel has been fighting hard to combat a movement that supports boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions over the country’s treatment of the Palestinian people.

It has passed a law permitting a ban on entry to any activist who “knowingly issues a call for boycotting Israel”.

But last month, Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said entry would not be denied to any member of Congress.

Ms Tlaib tweeted that the decision to bar her was a “sign of weakness” because “the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening”.

Ms Omar said Mr Netanyahu’s move was “not a surprise” given his record.

She said he had “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”.

Ms Omar added: “It is an affront that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the US 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.”

The US president intervened hours earlier to claim Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar “hate Israel” and “all Jewish people”.

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