Donald Trump, the controversial US presidential front-runner for the Republicans, postponed his visit to Israel, saying he doesn’t want to put Netanyahu under pressure. A petition urging the Israeli leader not to meet with Trump was signed by 37 lawmakers.
Donald Trump on Thursday called off a planned December trip to Israel, shelving what was shaping up to be an awkward visit by the Republican presidential front-runner following comments that managed to offend Muslims and Jews alike.
Dozens of Israeli lawmakers had called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel the Dec. 28 meeting with Trump. The prime minister, apparently wary of being seen as endorsing Trump’s positions, had given only guarded remarks, saying he would honor a previously scheduled meeting but at the same time rejecting Trump’s calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump announced his decision on his Twitter feed, saying he would reschedule “at a later date after I become President of the U.S.”
Trump told Fox News there were many reasons he decided to hold off on a trip, among them that he didn’t want to put Netanyahu in a bind.
“In fact, I did a campaign ad for him, and he’s a good man, but I didn’t want to put him under pressure,” Trump said. “I also did it because I’m in the midst of a powerful campaign that’s going very well.”
Trump has had the GOP in turmoil over his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in the wake of last week’s mass shooting by an Islamist couple that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Critics say the proposal is racist and unconstitutional.
Trump, who has maintained a wide lead in most early polling, also sparked criticism among many American Jews last week after speaking to a gathering of Jewish donors.
He was booed after refusing to endorse Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel — a key Israeli position. The United States, like most of the international community, refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and says the city’s status must be resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump also made remarks that some said promoted Jewish stereotypes. “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.”
Marc Zell, the co-chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, said that there had been no pressure from the organization, which represents Republican expatriates living in Israel, for Trump not to come. However, stressing that he was expressing his personal opinion, Zell said it was all for the best that Trump had canceled.
He said Trump’s comments on Muslims and Jews were in “poor taste” and showed that the real estate mogul and reality TV star does not have what it takes to be president.
Netanyahu’s office declined comment on the cancellation.
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