IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Rep. Ilhan Omar backs resolution recognizing Israel as a 'legitimate' ally as GOP moves to oust her from committee

Omar signed on to a resolution recognizing Israel as a democratic ally and "condemning antisemitism" as Republicans prepared to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Jan. 26.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — More than 30 House Democrats have signed on to a new resolution “recognizing Israel as America’s legitimate and democratic ally and condemning antisemitism.”

The most notable among them: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Muslim American who has been a fierce critic of Israel and the Jewish lobby. Republicans ousted her from the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday for what members of both parties said were antisemitic remarks.

The copy of the resolution, authored by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., who is Jewish, was first obtained by NBC News.

It’s a dramatic evolution for Omar, who infuriated Democrats and Republicans in 2019 after she tweeted that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Jewish donors were paying politicians to back Israel, saying: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”

Omar apologized later, saying she never meant “to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole."

In response to the outcry, the Democratic-controlled House passed a resolution condemning “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry.” The vote was 407-23, with Omar herself voting for it and praising the resolution in a statement as "a condemnation of all forms of bigotry including anti-Semitism, racism, and white supremacy.”

Omar, a Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress, also came under fire from fellow Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois and other Democrats after they said she had equated the “United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.”

Since then, she has had numerous conversations about Israel with prominent Jewish members of Congress, leading to her signing on to the Gottheimer resolution this week.

But she emphasized on Twitter that her criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and "Israeli's policy toward Palestinians" have not changed.

All Democrats backed Omar on Thursday and voted no on the GOP resolution to remove her from the Foreign Affairs panel.

In a lengthy statement he issued after the vote, Gottheimer, who has clashed with Omar in the past over her comments about Israel, explained the significance of Omar's support.

"It is no secret that, over the years, I have been unabashedly critical about Congresswoman Omar’s past comments. But, it is an enormous step forward that Congresswoman Omar has signed onto this Congressional Resolution in support of Israel as a Jewish and legitimate democratic State, that acknowledges Israel as a vital ally, and that condemns the use of antisemitic tropes, including those masquerading as anti-Israel sentiments," he said.

"My hope is that the resolution ... will reinforce to people across our country, especially the scores of young people who look up to Congresswoman Omar, the importance of rejecting reflexive antisemitism and historic tropes, and seeing Israel as a key, historic, democratic ally of the United States."

Omar gave an emotional speech on the House floor ahead of the vote.

“Representation matters. Continuing to expand our ideas of who is American and who can partake in the American experiment is a good thing,” she was expected to say, according to prepared remarks. “I am an American. An American who was sent by her constituents to represent them in Congress. A refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war, as someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp, and as someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life in the United States. Someone who believes in the American dream, in the American promise, and the ability to voice that in a democratic process.”

In addition to Omar, dozens of other Democrats have signed on to the Gottheimer resolution. They include: Schneider, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Lois Frankel of Florida, Dan Goldman of New York, Steven Horsford of Nevada, Kathy Manning of North Carolina, Rob Menendez of New Jersey, Grace Meng of New York, Jared Moskowitz of Florida, Donald Payne of New Jersey, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Katie Porter of California, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Ritchie Torres of New York, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Susan Wild of Pennsylvania.