Caught between the opposing views of President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed himself on Thursday and decided to prohibit two Democratic congresswomen from visiting Israel.
The move to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., followed an unusual intervention by Trump, who advisers say is trying to sow divisions within the Democratic Party by shining a spotlight on its most liberal members.
Hours before the decision to block the lawmakers, Trump tweeted that approving the visit would "show great weakness." He also said that Omar and Tlaib "hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds."
Israel's decision immediately opened up a new battle between Netanyahu and Democrats, who had privately warned Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer that such a decision would be unprecedented and inconsistent with Israel's claims of tolerance and openness.
But it also united the party's leaders behind a simple message: Barring the travel of U.S. lawmakers for practicing free speech is unacceptable, and both Trump and Netanyahu are at fault.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the move "deeply disappointing," and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who lobbied Israeli officials on Wednesday to allow the lawmakers to make a trip, called it "outrageous."
Tlaib and Omar have said their criticisms of the Israeli government are based on policy differences and have repeatedly denied harboring any animus toward Jews or Israelis. Both have voiced their support for a boycott movement against Israel to oppose the treatment of Palestinians.
In a statement, Omar said the Israeli decision was not a surprise coming from Netanyahu, "who has consistently...