Donald Trump postpones trip to Israel 'until after he becomes President'

Benjamin Netanhahu said he 'rejects Donald Trump's recent remarks about Muslims'

Tim Walker
Los Angeles
,Samuel Osborne
Thursday 10 December 2015 13:16 GMT
Donald Trump appears confident he will be elected President of the US
Donald Trump appears confident he will be elected President of the US (Reuters)

Donald Trump has said he will postpone his trip to Israel until after he becomes President of the US.

The presidential hopeful has attracted controversy after calling for a "complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States".

Mr Trump also said he would schedule his meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he is elected.

Mr Trump's remarks about Muslims prompted international censure, including from Mr Netanyahu, who said on Wednesday that he “rejected” the real estate mogul’s remarks.

"The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens," a statement said.

“At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.”

Mr Netanyahu had confirmed that he would meet Mr Trump, but said he would also welcome any US presidential candidate who visited Israel.

“This policy does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views,” the Israeli leadership said in a statement. “Rather, it is an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”

Reports in the Israeli media suggested Mr Trump had asked to visit the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, considered the third-most holy site in the Islamic world, as part of his trip.

Almost 40 Israeli MPs, both Jewish and Arab, signed a letter demanding Mr Trump’s visit be cancelled in light of his comments, and saying a meeting between Mr Netanyahu and the 69-year-old would “disgrace Israel’s democratic character and hurt its Muslim citizens”.

Mr Trump explained his decision to postpone the trip in an interview with Fox News, saying he didn’t want to put Mr Netanyahu “under pressure”, and adding: “I’m in the midst of a very powerful campaign that’s going very well and [the visit to Israel] was not that easy to do.”

The billionaire is also facing a backlash in Britain, where a petition to ban him from visiting the country has now attracted more than 400,000 signatures. The petition, which was started before Mr Trump issued his controversial policy proposal on Monday, is now likely to become the most popular ever on the UK Government’s website.

David Cameron has condemned Mr Trump’s claims that parts of London are “so radicalised the police are afraid for their lives”, calling them “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”

The Donald, undeterred, suggested British politicians “should be thanking me instead of pandering to political correctness”. In a tweet, Mr Trump said: “The United Kingdom is trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem. Everybody is wise to what is happening, very sad! Be honest.”

In spite of the international backlash against his anti-Muslim proposals, Mr Trump insisted he was acting in the interests of the Muslim community. “I’m doing good for the Muslims,” Mr Trump told CNN in a Wednesday interview. “Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, ‘Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic.’”

At 35 per cent support among Republican primary voters, Mr Trump commands a more than two-to-one poll lead over his closest rivals, the Texas Senator Ted Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. According to a new New York Times/CBS national poll, however, almost two-thirds of American voters are “concerned or frightened” by the prospect of a Trump presidency.

Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-born billionaire and Republican donor who is backing the former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for the nomination, has reportedly commissioned a television commercial to run during next week’s Republican debate, condemning Mr Trump’s anti-immigration stance.

Mr Fernandez also purchased a full-page advertisement in The Miami Herald, describing Mr Trump as a “narcissistic bully-ionaire with a hunger to be adored”.

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