Republican debate in Miami, Florida.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A United States senator who earlier this year visited Israel claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern to him about anti-Muslim rhetoric being voiced by some presidential candidates.
Tim Kaine, the junior Democratic Senator from Virginia, said in an interview that world leaders, particularly in the Middle East, were concerned about the negative rhetoric emanating from presidential candidates in regards to Islam.
Kaine especially took issue with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for a temporary moratorium on Muslim entry into the United States.
"I was in the Middle East in January and back-to-back had evening meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel and President [Recep] Erdoğan in Turkey," Kaine was quoted by The Hill as telling VA Talk Radio this week. "These guys agree on nothing, but they both said to this group of senators, ‘What’s going on in the presidential race?’”
He added that the foreign leaders are "very worried about some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming out of some of the candidates because they are societies that are too sectarian."
"They hope one day to be less sectarian, but the only way to get there is if they have an example of a country where people of different religions can live and work together and go to school together and make it work. We’ve been that example for them, and they’re very nervous when they see us backsliding," he added.
Kaine, who is also the former governor of Virginia, sits on the prestigious US Foreign Relations Committee and was one of eight senators to travel to Israel earlier this year.
Kaine continued by stating that he "abhors" the kind of "hateful" oratory exuding from the presidential field, adding "it is the death spasm of a feeling people have about losing control."
The junior senator has come out in support of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, endorsing her candidacy for president.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu is very careful to avoid even the appearance of preference among American presidential candidates,” spokesman David Keyes said in a statement on Sunday.
“In his meeting with Senator Kaine and his colleagues, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not express any opinion about the candidates or any of their positions,” Keyes said.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.