South Florida Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz say that while they disagree with two of their Democratic congressional colleagues about Israeli politics, they are both adamantly opposed to them being banned from that country.
Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Rashida Talib from Michigan were scheduled to travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank this weekend, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this morning that he would not allow them to enter, citing the two U.S. representatives’ support for an economic boycott of Israel.
“Congressmen Talib and Omar are leading activists in promoting legislation against Israel in the US Congress, Netanyahu tweeted on Thursday. “Only a few days ago, we received their visitation plan, and it became clear that they were planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and negate Israel’s legitimacy.”
Netanyahu’s announcement came just two hours after President Trump – an ally of Netanyahu’s – tweeted that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Talib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
Deutch said in a written statement that he was “extremely disappointed that the Israel government has chosen not to allow my colleagues to enter Israel. It is well known that I have strong disagreements with my colleagues’ views on Israel. I support a two-state solution and condemn BDS.” (BDS stands for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel for their treatment of the Palestinians).
Wasserman Schultz also said it was a “mistake” to ban the members of Congress.
“Both the U.S. and Israel were founded on the premise that democracy flourishes with healthy dialogue and debate, including the expressions of policy positions with which I disagree,” Wasserman Schultz tweeted. “This decision will only embolden those trying to create a wedge between the U.S. and Israel. President Trump’s untimely meddling only makes the situation worse for both our nations by politicizing support for Israel and their visit.”
Omar and Talib became the first female Muslims to serve in Congress after they were elected to office last fall. They have expressed support for a boycott movement targeting Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. Both of have said their views are based on policy disagreements, not any anti-Jewish sentiment.
They have also openly feuded with Trump on a number of issues.
Deutch said he recently returned from a week in the Middle East with 40 of his Democratic colleagues, where he met with both Netanyahu and his chief rival in the upcoming Israel election, as well as with the Palestinian president and a group of young Palestinian entrepreneurs in the West Bank.
“Israel’s society is diverse and vibrant, and its challenges are many. Palestinians, too, face difficult challenges. Members of Congress should be able to visit Israel to hear from Israelis with a full range of views just as they should hear from Palestinians with a full range of views,” Deutch said. “If members of Congress visit Israel and shut out the voices of those they disagree with, they are making a mistake. And when Israel shuts out Members of Congress, they, too, are making a mistake. I regret today’s decision.”