After Israeli officials announced that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) would not be allowed to enter the country for their proposed visit on Thursday, some Jewish groups and prominent Republicans denounced the decision.
The officials’ rebuke of Israel’s ban on the freshman lawmakers is a major departure from President Donald Trump, who earlier Thursday claimed the country would be showing “great weakness” if they allowed Omar and Tlaib entry.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted that he disagrees “100%” with Omar and Tlaib’s views on U.S.-Israel relations but said denying them entry was a “mistake.”
However, Rubio wasn’t rushing to the congresswomen’s defense. The senator suggested without proof that Omar and Tlaib wanted to be denied into Israel to “bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.”
Omar and Tlaib, both of whom were the first Muslim women elected to Congress, have been at odds with Trump and their Republican colleagues over their criticisms of the U.S.’s close relationship with Israel.
In particular, Omar faced accusations of anti-Semitism early this year after she made a series of comments on Twitter that employed anti-Semitic stereotypes, according to lawmakers from both political parties. She later apologized for the remarks.
Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who has family on the West Bank, has also publicly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Both congresswomen ― who have expressed support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement ― say their criticisms are aimed at the Israeli government and not Jewish people. They were barred from Israel as part of the country’s anti-boycott law.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem earlier this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that he supported Omar and Tlaib’s visit to Israel despite their views.
“I think all should come,” McCarthy said, according to Israeli news site Haaretz.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful conservative lobby group, also expressed their support for Omar and Tlaib’s entry.
In response to the decision to bar the lawmakers, AIPAC said that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”
Former Sen. Jeff Flake (R) took issue with Trump’s tweet claiming that allowing Omar and Tlaib into the country would indicate weakness.
“Prohibiting Members of Congress from visiting Israel is not a show of strength, and encouraging the Israeli Government to take such a position is not helping Israel,” the Republican tweeted.