The saga over Israel’s decision last week to bar Democratic lawmakers Rashida Tlaib and Ilan Omar from entering the country continues to make waves. On Sunday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to the defense of his US ambassador and longtime confidant who in July prematurely asserted that the Jewish state would never prevent American legislators from visiting out of respect for Congress and the strong bilateral ties between the nations. “When ambassador [Ron] Dermer spoke, there was not a specific request for these visits, and no specific schedule and itinerary,” Netanyahu said. “The minute they gave that to us, we studied it and the decision was made. This is not a decision along partisan lines. It is one of principle,” he continued. “We respect equally all the parties in the United States, but we also respect ourselves. We will not allow entry to those who come to impose boycotts on us and to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.” Both Tlaib and Omar are proponents of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates cutting off economic ties with companies, entities or individuals maintaining a relationship with Israel. Critics contend that BDS is inherently anti-Semitic, as the movement’s indirect call for a single state rather than two states means the dissolution of Israel and, by extension, an end to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump – who placed himself in the center of the debate by publicly calling on the Israeli government to ban Tlaib and Omar – denounced a reported push by Democratic leaders to censure Dermer and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman. “House Democrats want to take action against Israel because it is fighting back against two people that have said unthinkably bad things about it and the Israeli people,” the US president tweeted.
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