Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCutting tariffs is better than cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy In debate over internet speech law, pay attention to whose voices are ignored MORE (D-Calif.) spoke with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday as the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem was thrust into the spotlight this week.
The phone call came after the Israeli government blocked Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarJewish Democrats decry Trump’s ‘loyalty’ remarks Poll: Voters split on whether it’s acceptable for Israel to deny Omar, Tlaib visas Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy MORE (D-Minn.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIsrael should resist Trump’s efforts to politicize support Jewish Democrats decry Trump’s ‘loyalty’ remarks Poll: Voters split on whether it’s acceptable for Israel to deny Omar, Tlaib visas MORE (D-Mich.) from visiting the country for a scheduled trip over their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The controversy was further inflamed when President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks ‘soon’ MORE said Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” a remark critics said played on anti-Semitic tropes.
“I spoke today with @SpeakerPelosi about the importance of strong US-Israel relations and I thanked her for her commitment,” Rivlin tweeted. “The link between us is between peoples, based on historical ties, deep, strong friendships and shared values, not dependent on the links with either party.”
Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill later tweeted that the conversation “was spirited by their personal friendship as well as by the strong relationship between Israel and the United States.”
While Israel has long enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, Democrats were quick to pan its decision to block the entry of two Democratic lawmakers on ideological grounds. Israel defended its decision, citing a new law justifying the blocking of any person who supports the BDS movement.
The ensuing political firestorm has consumed Washington, with many arguing that Israel’s behavior is not that of one of the U.S.’s closest allies and Omar going on to float the idea of tying military aid to Israel to its treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“We give Israel more than $3 [billion] in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East. But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy,” Omar said at a news conference this week.
Trump, who vocally criticized Omar and Tlaib, fanned the flames of the controversy further Tuesday with his remark about loyalty, which some said touched on the historical trope that Jews hold dual loyalty to both Israel and their country of residence.
The president, who has made support for Israel a cornerstone of his Middle East policy, doubled down on his comment Wednesday, telling reporters “if you vote for a Democrat you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.”