Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of his widely condemned calls to ban Muslim entry to the US was “modest,” but still “inappropriate.”
In an interview with CNN, the GOP front-runner brushed off the dropped meeting and Netanyahu’s comments rejecting the ban.
Netanyahu “did [condemn the call], and that was sort of interesting,” Trump said. “He modestly condemned [the statements], 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.”
Netanyahu, Trump remarked, did not reject his comments about Muslims outright, and he insisted he could still meet the prime minister anytime he wanted.
“They’re not distancing themselves [from me],” Trump said of the Israeli government. “I had a meeting [set up] with Netanyahu. I could be at the meeting right now.”
He also told CNN that his Muslim friends back him for highlighting the problems of extremism within their community, even if they don’t support the idea of a travel ban.
Trump last week canceled a scheduled trip to Israel, after Netanyahu rejected his comments but indicated that he would still meet with the businessman. He said in an interview Thursday that he was postponing the slated December 28 visit for “lots of different reasons,” including a desire to take pressure off Netanyahu.
On Twitter, Trump said the meeting with Netanyahu would take place “after I become president of the US.”
After the visit was postponed, Netanyahu’s office said it had nothing to do with the announcement and he had not spoken to Trump about the matter.
Trump’s call last Monday for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” drew anger in the US and around the world. In Israel, 37 lawmakers signed a petition calling on Netanyahu to cancel his planned meeting with Trump.