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FILE - In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. The U.S. envoy to Israel said 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, Aug. 15, 2019, 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." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

JERUSALEM — Israel said Thursday that it will bar two Democratic congresswomen from entering the country ahead of a planned visit over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement, a decision announced shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow them in.

The move to bar Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from visiting appeared to be unprecedented. It marked a deep foray by Israel into America’s bitterly polarized politics and a sharp escalation of Israel’s campaign against the international boycott movement.

The two newly-elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and have repeatedly sparred with Trump over a range of issues. Tlaib’s family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank, where she still has close relatives.

They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians. It was not immediately clear if they had planned to meet with Israeli officials, and spokespeople for the two congresswomen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “open to critics and criticism,” except for those who advocate boycotts against it.

“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress,” Netanyahu charged. He said their itinerary “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”

Omar denounced the decision as “an affront” and “an insult to democratic values.”

“This is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump,” Omar said in a statement.

Shortly before the decision was announced, Trump had tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed them to visit. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” He went on to call the two congresswomen “a disgrace.”

The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, endorsed the decision after it was made, saying 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.”

Trump’s decision to urge a foreign country to deny entry to elected U.S. officials was a striking departure from the long-held practice of politicians from both parties of leaving their disputes at the water’s edge.

Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress denounced Israel’s decision.

Top ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said it was a sign of weakness instead of strength and “will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America.” A close freshman colleague of the two lawmakers, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, said Israel’s move is “bigoted, short sighted and cruel.”

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