Ron Dermer
Ron DermerReuters

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said on Thursday that the decision to ban Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country had nothing to do with President Donald Trump.

Speaking in a conference call with Jewish groups and quoted by JTA, Dermer said reports implying that Israel had caved into pressure from Trump were false.

“We were not pressured by the Trump administration to do this and this is a sovereign decision that Israel has to make,” Dermer said in the call organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Dermer said the decision was motivated by the fact that the two Muslim lawmakers support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Under Israeli law, BDS supporters can be prevented from entering the country.

Israel’s decision to ban Tlaib and Omar came shortly after Trump wrote on Twitter that Israel “would show great weakness” if it let in the two congresswomen.

Echoing a statement Thursday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Dermer cited an itinerary provided by Tlaib and Omar as a reason for the decision to deny them entry. He said the itinerary listed the destination as Palestine, not Israel, and included no meetings with Israeli officials.

The ambassador added that the congresswomen planned to meet with organizations promoting BDS, one of whose leaders has ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is designated by the US as a terror group.

“The leadership of our country believes that this visit was designed solely with the intention of promoting BDS and they were gonna use this visit as platform to BDS activities,” the ambassador said, according to JTA.

He also said that Israel would let Tlaib visit the country if she decided to visit her grandmother, who lives in the Palestinian Authority-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria, and promised not to participate in any BDS activities.

Dermer said the United States at various points has banned foreign politicians from entering the country. He gave the examples of former MK Michael Ben Ari, who has been banned from entering the US since 2009, and Narendra Modi, who is now prime minister of India but was previously barred due to allegations that he supported anti-Muslim riots by Hindu extremists.

“Many people are questioning Israel’s commitment to democracy, to openness, to tolerance and I just think there’s absolutely no basis for that,” Dermer was quoted as having said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Trump welcomed Israel’s decision in a conversation with reporters but said it was ultimately up to Israel whether to grant the lawmakers entry.

“I’m only involved from the standpoint of they are very anti-Jewish and they’re very anti-Israel," Trump told reporters, according to The Hill.

"I think it’s very disgraceful, the things they’ve said. They’ve become the face of the Democrat Party,” he added.