Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would bar a planned visit by two US congresswomen who have supported a boycott of the country over its treatment of Palestinians, a decision in line with President Donald Trump's urgings.

In this Feb. 5, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listen to President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington.
In this Feb. 5, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listen to President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Archive)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel "is open to all visitors and all criticism," but will bar entry to two US Democratic congresswomen over their support for boycotts.

Netanyahu's office issued a statement, saying that based on Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar's itinerary for an upcoming visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem, "it became clear that they are planning a trip whose sole purpose was strengthening the boycott and negating the legitimacy of Israel."

The decision came after the US President Donald Trump called on Israel to bar the planned visit by two US congresswomen who have expressed support for a boycott of Israel for its occupation of Palestinian land.

"It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!"

Tlaib is from Michigan and Omar from Minnesota.

In 2017, Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country.

The law was passed in response to a movement to boycott Israel as a means to pressure the country over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism — claim activists deny, saying they only want to see the occupation end.

Our correspondent Jon Brain brings more from the US.

Outspoken Trump critics

Both Omar and Tlaib have been critical of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and treatment of Palestinians.

The Democrats have also faced accusations of anti-Semitism, which they firmly deny.

The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, had previously signalled the two congresswomen would be allowed to visit out of respect for Washington, Israel's most important ally.

But the two are also outspoken political opponents and critics of Trump, who has a close relationship with Netanyahu.

Known as "the squad," the congresswomen — along with two other progressive congressional allies, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley — have been in Trump's crosshairs.

He has taken aim at the four in a series of xenophobic comments, telling them to "go back" where they came from and accusing them of having "love" for America's "enemies like Al-Qaeda," among other remarks.

Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old of Puerto Rican ancestry, is the youngest member of the House of Representatives, while Pressley is the first African American elected to Congress from Massachusetts.

Tlaib and Omar, who fled war-torn Somalia as a child and arrived in the United States as a refugee, are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

Tlaib is also the first woman of Palestinian descent in Congress.

Members of Congress are regular visitors to Israel and the Palestinian territories and blocking them would be a highly unusual move.

It would occur at a time when Jewish groups in the United States have expressed concern over whether bipartisan support for Israel in Washington is eroding.

Democratic candidates for president in the United States have openly criticised Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election in Israel on September 17 after polls earlier this year failed to yield a coalition.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies