Donald Trump was asked on Sunday about his reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration into the US, were he to win the race for the presidency.
In a wide ranging interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, the controversial billionaire denied that world leaders are "distancing themselves" from him, saying that he could be in a meeting with Netanyahu "right now."
When Tapper replied that Netanyahu had expressly condemned his statement, Trump admitted that the prime minister had indeed criticized him, saying "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."
Netanyahu's office had released a statement in reaction both to Trump's comments, as well as his announcement that he intended to meet the prime minister by the end of the year. This was shortly followed by Trump's campaign announcing that "The Apprentice" star would be postponing his planned trip to Israel.
"The State of Israel respects all religions and protects stringently the rights of all its citizens," Netanyahu's statement read. "At the same time Israel is struggling with extreme Islam that is attacking Muslims, Christian and Jews as one and is threatening the entire world."
In defense of his plan, Trump said to CNN on Sunday that, "I'm not looking to be politically correct. I'm doing this to do the right thing. This and other things. When I say this, I'm running to do the right thing. I'm doing the right thing. Our country has a problem. People are in fear. They're waiting for the next attack," Trump said.
The presidential candidate has also had a run-in with Jewish groups in the US as a result of his proposal, with the Anti-Defamation League heavily criticizing Trump's recent comments on Muslims as "deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values."
The American Jewish Committee’s director, David Harris, noted the timing of Trump’s statement, which called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” coincided with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
“As Jews who are now observing Hanukkah, a holiday that celebrates a small religious minority’s right to live unmolested, we are deeply disturbed by the nativist racism inherent in the candidate’s latest remarks,” Harris said. “You don’t need to go back to the Hanukkah story to see the horrific results of religious persecution; religious stereotyping of this sort has been tried often, inevitably with disastrous results.”Herb Keinon and JTA contributed to this report.