Rep. Ilhan Omar likened Saudi Arabia’s influence on the Trump administration to Israel’s, saying both countries relied in part on money to bring about their preferred outcomes.
An interview with the London-based Sunday Times ahead of the publication of her book “This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman” was likely to fuel tensions between Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, and supporters of Israel.
“We know the amount of money and influence and connection that the Saudis have with the administration is really the reason that everything destructive they do is nullified,” she told the newspaper. “And that really is no different to what’s happening with Israel.”
The story said that Omar’s “new approach is to pivot to Saudi Arabia so she isn’t singling out the Jews.”
“There’s an alarming connection to the really destructive policies Israel is proposing and how much of it is being rubber stamped by this administration,” she said. “And how much of it is being urged by Americans who have connection and influence with this administration.”
Omar apologized last year for a tweet in which she said “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to the pro-Israel lobby’s influence on lawmakers. Critics from both parties accused her of indulging an anti-Semitic trope that Jews buy influence.
Omar in the interview said she has a better understanding now of why such expressions are hurtful, and suggested that invoking the Saudis should protect her from charges of bigotry.
“I talk about Saudi blood money and them being bloodsuckers and no one says ‘This is Islamophobic,’” said Omar, who is Muslim.