Donald Trump scrapped a trip to Israel and a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday after the Republican presidential front-runner’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States set off a chorus of criticism in Israel.
Trump said via Twitter that the meeting will be postponed and rescheduled “after I become president of the U.S.” That would put off such a meeting until 2017 – if it ever took place.
The White House welcomed the postponement of the trip and suggested Netanyahu was relieved as well, citing the controversy in Israel.
“At this point I would say that most people are relieved that he’s reconsidered,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “He’s obviously a private citizen. So he can travel anywhere that he wants under U.S. law. But the situation in Israel is particularly volatile. And so I think in this case, a decision to reconsider that trip is a good outcome for all those involved.”
Trump had reportedly planned to visit the Temple Mount holy site, which is a source of conflict between Israel and Arabs.
New polls suggest 4 out of 10 Republicans support Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from the United States, though nearly 6 in 10 Americans overall oppose it.
Trump’s call Monday for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” in the aftermath of the Paris and California terrorist attacks prompted a strong reaction in Israel, where sensitivities run high over the exclusion of individuals on the basis of religion.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister rejected Trump’s call for a ban and that their Dec. 28 meeting had been scheduled two weeks ago, before the candidate’s latest comments on Muslims. The prime minister’s office said he would meet with any visiting American presidential candidate who requested it.
The policy “does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views,” the statement said. “Rather, it is an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attaches to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”
Trump’s call for barring Muslims drew criticism from some members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, and 37 Israeli Parliament members signed a letter urging the prime minister to cancel the meeting.
Trump’s remarks on Muslims also have caused a global tempest. A petition calling for him to be barred from entering the United Kingdom has gathered more than 370,000 names, meaning it could be open to debate by members of Parliament. In Scotland, the first minister has stripped Trump from his role as a business ambassador for the country.
In the U.S., polls suggest 4 out of 10 Republicans support Trump’s proposal, though nearly 6 in 10 Americans overall oppose it. A new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 57 percent of adults disagree with Trump’s proposal, versus 25 percent who agree.
Views are mixed among Republicans: Forty-two percent of GOP respondents supported the proposal, while 36 percent opposed it. Among Republican primary voters, however, 38 percent supported it and 39 percent were opposed.