Donald Trump Cancels Israel Trip After Netanyahu Rejects Call to Ban Muslim Immigrants
Donald Trump has canceled a planned trip to Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a call by the Republican presidential frontrunner to ban all Muslim immigration and travel to the United States.
The billionaire businessman was scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on December 28, but a day after his visit was announced the candidate said he would meet the prime minister “after I become president.”
“I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with Netanyahu at a later date after I become President of the US,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.
Trump’s announcement came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned his proposal to bar all Muslims from traveling to the United States, a ban that would include all immigrants, refugees, students and tourists. Trump’s proposal shocked much of the world and drew comparisons, even from other Republicans, to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism in Germany.
“Our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Trump said in defending his plan. “If I win the election for President, we are going to make America great again.”
Israel’s conservative leader did not agree.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject’s Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims,” a statement from his office read. “The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens.”
“At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world,” the statement continued.
“As for the meeting with Mr. Trump that was set some two weeks ago, the Prime Minister decided earlier this year on a uniform policy to meet with all presidential candidates from either party who visit Israel and ask for a meeting,” the statement added. “This policy does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views. Rather, it is an expression of the importance the Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who, like Netanyahu is a member of the right-wing Likud Party, told Army Radio in Israel that Trump’s rhetoric is harmful.
“I recommend fighting terrorist and extremist Islam, but I would not declare a boycott of, ostracism against or war on Muslims in general,” Steinitz said. “We in the state of Israel have many Muslim citizens who are loyal. On the contrary, the extremists and the terrorists should be distinguished from the loyal citizens, and in the United States, too, there are loyal Muslim citizens.”
Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli lawmaker from the Arab-dominated Joint List alliance, had even stronger words for Trump, saying he did not believe the candidate would be returning as president.
“The American voters will throw this racist and international pyromaniac in the trash can of history,” Tibi told the Jerusalem Post. “I assume Netanyahu is disappointed Trump won’t be coming to his office.”
Back in Washington, DC, the Obama administration, which earlier said Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks disqualified him from being president, said there was palpable relief over Trump’s cancellation.
“Most people are relieved that he reconsidered,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “The situation in Israel is particularly volatile.” Earnest added that Netanyahu probably breathed a sigh of relief as well, but Trump disagreed.
“He disagrees with me. I doubt he actually does,” Trump said of Netanyahu, adding that he called off his meeting with the prime minister because he “didn’t want to put him under pressure.”
“I also did it because I’m in the midst of a very powerful campaign that’s going very well and it [the trip] was not that easy to do,” Trump added.
Trump also raised eyebrows and ire last week when he spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington, DC. Not only did Trump get booed when he refused to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, he also made comments that reinforced stereotypes about Jews.
“I know why you’re not going to support me—you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” Trump said. “You want to control your own politician.” He also said, “I’m a negotiator, like you folks.”
There was no indication that Trump’s popularity has suffered as a result of his call to ban all Muslim foreigners from the US. In fact, his lead has surged in the wake of his controversial commentary. According to a Real Clear Politics average of various national polls, Trump leads Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), his nearest rival, by a margin of two to one. Trump’s support ranges from 27 percent in numerous surveys to as high as 36 percent in a CNN poll.