Benjamin Netanyahu has joined a long list of international leaders to reject Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims, while championing Israel's "respect" for all religions and citizens' rights.
The Israeli Prime Minister released a statement saying he will still meet with the Republican Presidential candidate for previously scheduled talks later this month but does not “endorse his views”.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump's recent remarks about Muslims,” the statement said.
"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.”
Trump’s meeting with Mr Netanyahu was arranged two weeks ago, the statement said, as part of a “uniform policy” to accept requests from Presidential candidates from either party who visit Israel.
The move was said to be “an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States”.
He is due to meet Trump on 28 December as the mogul tours Israel. He has not announced any details but the Jerusalem Post reported that a visit to a contested holy site in Jerusalem is being “strongly considered”.
Control of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam, has been cited as a driving force behind a recent surge in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
Since mid-September, 19 Israelis have died in Palestinian attacks and at least 109 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces, including 74 said to be carrying out or attempting attacks.
Opposition Israeli politicians have opposed Trump’s visit in the current climate, with Arab Knesset member Issawi Frej asking the interior minister not to let the American politician enter the country.
“Imagine that a country or a candidate would say entrance to Jews is forbidden, the whole world would stand up in protest, saying this is a racist anti-Semite,” Mr Frej, from the Meretz party, told Israel Radio. “A racist like this has no place here among us.”
Taleb Abu Arrar, an MK for the United Arab List, claimed that if Trump visits the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, it will “set the whole region on fire”.
A petition by Knesset members demanding Mr Netanyahu cancel their meeting has reportedly garnered at least 37 signatures.
Trump has provoked international outrage with his call for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the US in the wake of a mass shooting in California by a husband and wife who allegedly supported Isis.
Additional reporting by AP
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