(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he “absolutely did not” ask Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to cancel his trip to Israel following the candidate’s controversial comments about Muslims.
Netanyahu, in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post about the circumstances of Trump’s cancellation of his planned trip later this month, said he had planned to meet Trump during that visit.
“My policy is to meet with all presidential candidates who come to Israel, both Democrats and Republicans,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Netanyahu’s rejection of his plan to ban Muslims from entering the US was “inappropriate."
“I saw Netanyahu put out a statement distancing himself from you,” Tapper said in the interview.
“They’re not distancing themselves. I had a meeting with Netanyahu. I could be at the meeting right now,” Trump said.
Reminded that Netanyahu condemned Trump’s remarks, the candidate replied, “He did, and that was sort of interesting. He modestly condemned them, and I thought it was sort of inappropriate that he condemned them, but that’s OK. He wanted to condemn them, that’s what he does.”
Trump’s comment last week about the need for the US to institute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” prompted 37 MKs, including two from the coalition, to sign a letter calling on Netanyahu to cancel his meeting with the billionaire candidate.
Netanyahu issued a statement rejecting Trump’s comments and stressing that Israel “respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens.”
Trump announced postponement of his trip to Israel with a tweet saying he would instead visit after he is elected president.
Most presidential candidates, however, generally visit Israel before the elections to underline their friendship toward the country.
Asked by the Post whether he thought Trump’s cancellation raised questions about Trump’s friendship toward Israel, Netanyahu replied: “Not at all.”
“His friendship toward Israel is not in question and never was,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel is fortunate to enjoy broad support and friendship among the candidates running for president.”
Earlier this month, Trump said that, if elected president, he would know whether it would be possible to reach a Palestinian- Israeli peace deal within six months.
“I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to make it,” Trump said in an interview with AP. “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” he said. “They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>