The Latest: Trump defends Israel move to bar 2 congresswomen

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Donald Trump

In this Aug. 13, 2019, photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak in Monaca, Pa. Trump is hoping to woo New Hampshire into his column heading into 2020. The president will visit the state on Thursday to hold a reelection rally. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on Israel’s decision to bar two U.S. Democratic congresswomen from visiting (all times local):

12:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is defending Israel’s decision to bar two Democratic members of Congress from visiting the country, even as he claims he didn’t “encourage or discourage” the move.

Trump told reporters on Thursday that he “did speak to people over there” regarding the decision but says he was “only involved from the standpoint that they’re very anti-Jewish and very anti-Israel.”

Israel announced earlier Thursday that it had taken the unprecedented move of barring a visit by Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota over their criticism of the country.

Trump had tweeted before the announcement that it would “show great weakness” to let them in.

Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and have repeatedly sparred with President Donald Trump.

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11:25 p.m.

A pro-Israel lobbying group is criticizing the Israeli government for barring a pair of outspoken Democratic congresswomen from visiting the country because of their views.

AIPAC said in a statement Thursday that they “disagree” with Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support a boycott of Israel.

But the group says: “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

The decision by Israel appears to be an unprecedented move against American members of Congress.

President Donald Trump said shortly before the announcement, however, that it would “show great weakness” if Israel allowed them in.

AIPAC, which advocates pro-Israel policies, has generally been supportive of the president.

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10:45 p.m.

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib says Israel’s move to block her from visiting because of her support for a boycott movement against the country is a “sign of weakness.”

Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, on Thursday tweeted a photo of her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. She said her grandmother “deserves to live in peace & with human dignity,” and barring her granddaughter from entering “is a sign of weakness” because “the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”

Tlaib and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, both Muslims, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and have repeatedly sparred with President Donald Trump. They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization.

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8:20 p.m.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar says Israel’s move to block her and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib from visiting the country is “an insult to democratic values.”

Omar says in a prepared statement that Israel’s move Thursday is the equivalent of President Donald Trump’s effort to block travel to the U.S. from Muslim-dominated countries. And she says denying entry “not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories.”

The Minnesota Democrat says the move isn’t a surprise given that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.”

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8:15 p.m.

The Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel has condemned Israel for barring two Democratic U.S. congresswomen from entering the country over their support for the movement.

Israel said Thursday it will bar Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from entering the country, a decision announced shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow them in.

Movement founder Omar Barghouti said Thursday in a statement: “Israel’s far-right government, with (President Donald) Trump’s collusion, has again put itself on par with apartheid South Africa in the past, and other rogue regimes in the present.”

The BDS movement promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israeli institutions and businesses in what it says is a nonviolent campaign against Israeli abuses against Palestinians. Israel says the campaign masks a deeper goal of delegitimizing and even destroying the country.

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8:50 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is slamming Israel’s decision to deny admission to two Muslim-American congresswomen, calling the snub “beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel.”

The California Democrat, long a supporter of Israel, also said President Donald Trump’s statements attacking liberal Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and encouraging Israel to block their planned visit is “a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.”

Tlaib, of Michigan, and Minnesota Democrat Omar are critics of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and many Republicans say Omar’s past rhetoric is anti-Semitic.

Pelosi noted that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, recently said that Israel would not deny any members of Congress from entering the country. She called the reversal “sad” and “deeply disappointing.”

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8:35 p.m.

A top Democratic leader called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urged him to allow two Muslim-American congresswomen to visit the West Bank.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the decision by Israel to refuse entry to Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is “outrageous” and “wrong.” He urged Israel to reconsider.

Hoyer had just returned from visiting the region with a congressional delegation and took the lead for House leadership on the issue. He had earlier secured a statement from Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer assuring that no member of Congress would be denied entry, according to an aide unauthorized to discuss the private talks. The aide was granted anonymity.

The two lawmakers are outspoken critics of Israel.

—Lisa Mascaro

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7:50 p.m.

The U.S. envoy to Israel says he supports Israel’s decision to deny entry to two Muslim congresswomen ahead of their planned visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Ambassador David Friedman said Thursday in a statement following the Israeli government’s announcement that Israel “has every right to protect its borders” against promoters of boycotts “in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons.”

Friedman says that the movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel “is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish State.”

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7:30 p.m.

Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are denouncing Israel’s decision to block two progressive lawmakers from visiting the country.

Top ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said Israel’s decision to block Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are Muslims, was a sign of weakness instead of strength and “will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America.”

The two liberal Democrats have been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Tlaib’s family emigrated to the U.S. from the West Bank.

A close freshman colleague of the two lawmakers, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, said Israel’s move is “bigoted, short sighted and cruel.”

Israel announced its decision shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow the visit.

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7:15 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel “is open to all visitors and all criticism,” but will bar entry to two U.S. Democratic congresswomen over their support for boycotts.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement Thursday saying that based on Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s itinerary for an upcoming visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem, “it became clear that they are planning a trip whose sole purpose was strengthening the boycott and negating the legitimacy of Israel.”

The prime minister said Israel had welcomed 70 Republican and Democratic members of Congress “with open arms,” and that “there’s not a state in the world that respects the United States and the U.S. Congress more than the state of Israel.”

The decision was announced shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow the congresswomen in.

Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and have been the subject of repeated attacks by Trump in recent weeks, including a series of racist tweets last month.

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6:10 p.m.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister says the government has decided to bar two U.S. Democratic congresswomen who support the international boycott movement from entering the country.

Tzipi Hotovely told Israel Radio in an interview Thursday that “Israel has decided not to allow” Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to visit as planned.

She says it is in keeping with a policy of denying entry to those who advocate boycotts of Israel.

Her remarks came shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed them in.

The two newly-elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Tlaib’s family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank.

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5:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Israel should bar two Democratic U.S. congresswomen from visiting the country.

Israel’s prime minister and other top officials were meeting to reevaluate the decision to allow Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to visit next week. Both are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support a boycott of Israel.

Trump tweeted Thursday: “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed” the Americans to visit, claiming: “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”

Trump has spent weeks now criticizing the members, including sending racist tweets.

The Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, had said Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress.

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12:25 p.m.

Israel’s prime minister is holding consultations with senior ministers and aides to reevaluate the decision to allow two Democratic Congresswomen to enter the country next week.

A government official said Thursday that Benjamin Netanyahu was holding consultations about the upcoming visit of Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and that “there is a possibility that Israel will not allow the visit in its current proposed format.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and advocates of a boycott against the country. Tlaib’s family immigrated to the U.S. from the West Bank.

Last month, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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