Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday said he's postponing his trip to Israel and will schedule a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at a later date after I become President of the U.S.”
Trump's announcement, made on Twitter, follows days of condemnation by rival candidates and world leaders of his proposal to temporarily ban foreign citizens who are Muslim from entering the U.S. after recent terrorist attacks.
Those critics included Netanyahu, who said Wednesday he would proceed with the Dec. 28 meeting but “rejects Donald Trump’s latest comments about Muslims.” Thirty-seven Israeli lawmakers had demanded that Netanyahu cancel.
A spokesman for Netanyahu had no comment on Thursday's development.
Visiting Israel is a common way for U.S. presidential candidates and potential candidates to build foreign policy credentials and highlight their commitment to the ally. Netanyahu has already met with Republicans Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker (who later dropped his bid) in the run-up to the 2016 election.
“Trump's decision resolves a very thorny issue for Israel,” said Michael Oren, who served as Netanyahu's ambassador to the U.S.
“In keeping with our longstanding tradition of hosting leading American presidential candidates, Israel couldn't refuse to see him without exposing itself to undue accusations of interference in U.S. elections. Yet to receive him without condemning his recent prejudicial remarks about Muslims would have been unconscionable for the Jewish state and its 20 percent Muslim minority,” said Oren, who now serves in Netanyahu's government as a lawmaker for the Kulanu party.