TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he “absolutely did not” ask Donald Trump to cancel a visit to Israel that had been scheduled for later this month.
Netanyahu also said he believes Trump’s friendship toward the Jewish state “is not in question and never was.”
Last Thursday, Trump announced he was postponing the visit and a meeting with Netanyahu until “after I become President of the U.S.”
That move came one day after Netanyahu publically rejected comments on Muslim immigration made last week by the presidential candidate.
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post on Monday, Netanyahu said that he did not think Trump’s cancellation raised questions about the Republican frontrunner’s affection for Israel.
“His friendship towards 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.”
The Republican frontrunner has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Responding to those sentiments, Netanyahu’s office last week released a statement to reporters affirming, “The prime minister rejects the recent comments by Donald Trump regarding Muslims.”
“Israel respects all religions and stickily preserves the rights of all its citizens,” the statement said, adding that “at the same time, Israel is struggling against the radical Islamism that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews as one and poses a threat to the entire world.”
The statement continued:
The Prime Minister has set a uniform policy to agree to meeting requests with all US presidential candidates who come to Israel.
Trump addressed Netanyahu’s press release in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
“I saw Netanyahu put out a statement distancing himself from you,” Tapper said.
“They’re not distancing themselves. I had a meeting with Natanyahu. I could be at the meeting right now,” Trump replied.
“But he condemned your remarks is all I’m saying,” Tapper retorted.
“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. OK? But we have a problem,” Trump said.