Netanyahu’s office released a statement Wednesday night saying he “rejects” the GOP front-runner’s remarks, but would nevertheless meet with Trump in Israel on Dec. 28, in a visit that was set two weeks ago.
On Thursday morning, however, Trump took to Twitter to announce that he’d be delaying his meeting with the Israeli prime minister.
“I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with @Netanyahu at a later date after I become President of the U.S.,” Trump tweeted.
When asked during a Wednesday night interview with CNN Tonight if he would be meeting the Israeli leader, Trump replied, “I didn’t say that, no.”
“I have respect for him,” Trump told Don Lemon of Netanyahu. “I actually did a commercial for him, for his campaign … I like him a lot. I’m going to Israel, I’m not saying who I’m meeting with.”
But according to CNN, Trump told supporters at a rally last week in Virginia, “I’m going to Israel, and I’ll be meeting with Bibi Netanyahu, who’s a great guy.”
Netanyahu’s statement came after many opposition politicians in Israel called for him to cancel the meeting with Trump in light of the billionaire businessman’s comments about Muslims. But Netanyahu’s office said the meeting should not be viewed as an endorsement.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims,” the statement read. “The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.”
“As for the meeting with Mr. Trump that was set some two weeks ago, the Prime Minister decided earlier this year on a uniform policy to agree to meet with all presidential candidates from either party who visit Israel and ask for a meeting,” the statement continued. “This policy does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views. Rather, it is an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”
Meanwhile, a petition calling for Trump to be banned from the U.K. has racked up more than 400,000 signatures, more than enough for the motion to automatically be considered for a debate in Parliament.
Trump brushed off the petition in a lengthy statement detailing all the good he’s done for Scotland (including building a golf course).
“U.K. politicians should be thanking me instead of pandering to political correctness,” Trump said in the statement, according to The Telegraph. “In fact, in an article out today, many police officers in London have come forward to confirm their fears of terrorism. I only said what needed to be said, and when I am elected no one will be tougher or smarter than me. I will work very hard and effectively to defeat terrorism.”
Trump also addressed the petition on Twitter Thursday morning:
Despite the international backlash against Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, a new poll from CBS and The New York Times shows he’s up 13 points since October, earning 35 percent of the Republican vote. Ted Cruz came in second with 16 percent, and Ben Carson placed third with 13 percent.