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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Donald Trump has scrapped a planned trip to Israel, saying he will reschedule "at a later date after I become President of the U.S."
Trump tweeted Thursday that he is postponing the trip, which had become problematic for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Viewed as a Republican Party supporter, Netanyahu faced calls to cancel the visit, planned for Dec. 28, after Trump called for keeping Muslims from entering the U.S. and made controversial comments to a Jewish group.
Trump told Fox News there were many reasons he decided to hold off on a trip, among them that he didn't want to put Netanyahu in a bind. "In fact, I did a campaign ad for him, and he's a good man, but I didn't want to put him under pressure," Trump said.
"You know, he said, 'We have a meeting,' and he looks forward to the meeting and all of that. But I didn't want to put him under pressure, No. 1. I also did it because I'm in the midst of a very powerful campaign that's going very well and it was not that easy to do. So I would say lots of different reasons," Trump said.
Trump has the GOP in turmoil over his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. following last week's mass shooting by an Islamic militant couple that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Netanyahu's office had said in a statement issued Wednesday that he rejects Trump's comments about Muslims but planned to move forward with the meeting with Trump.
In the statement, Netanyahu's office said 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," the statement said.
The GOP presidential candidate, who has maintained a wide lead in most early polling, sparked criticism among many American Jews last week after speaking to a gathering of Jewish donors. He was booed after refusing to endorse Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. The United States, like most of the international community, refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and says the city's status must be resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump also made remarks that some said promoted Jewish stereotypes. "I know why you're not going to support me: you're not going to support me because I don't want your money," Trump said. "You want to control your own politician." He also said, "I'm a negotiator, like you folks."
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