US President Donald Trump has defended Israel’s decision to bar two Muslim Congresswomen from visiting the occupied territories, even as he claims he didn’t “encourage or discourage” Israel to ban the two pro-Palestinian lawmakers.
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 preventing a visit by Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both Democratic members of the US House of Representatives, over their criticism of Israel.
Trump had tweeted before Israel’s 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 support a boycott of Israel.
They were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds next week.
The two Muslim lawmakers, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, have been a frequent target of Trump since their election to the lower chamber of Congress last year.
The Republican president triggered a firestorm last month after he tweeted that the four Democratic Congresswomen, known as “the squad,” should “go back” where they came from, even though all are US citizens and three are US-born.
The decision by Israel appears to be an unprecedented move against American members of Congress. Even AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, criticized Israel for barring the pair from traveling there.
Several US lawmakers warned that the highly unusual Israeli move threatens to upend relations between the United States and Israel..
“I can’t think of any other president, Democrat or Republican, doing something as outrageous as this,” said Democratic Representative. Mark Pocan, a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Robert Danin, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former career State Department official, said it was “embarrassing” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be seen as bowing to Trump’s demands.