Donald Trump’s Israel visit put off ‘until he is president’

Left-wing Knesset members take credit for cancellation following petition against visit

Donald Trump: He  had been scheduled to meet Binyamin  Netanyahu on December 28th and had also planned a  visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s old city, Judaism’s holiest site, which is revered by Muslims. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Donald Trump: He had been scheduled to meet Binyamin Netanyahu on December 28th and had also planned a visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s old city, Judaism’s holiest site, which is revered by Muslims. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

 

Knesset members who launched a campaign against the planned visit of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have claimed credit for his surprise decision to cancel his trip to Israel.

Knesset member Michal Rozin, from the left-wing opposition Meretz, who initiated a petition against the visit which was signed by a quarter of the 120 Knesset members, said the cancellation was a victory for the legislators who made it clear that Mr Trump was not welcome following his call to ban Muslims entering the US.

“We won; racism surrendered to us. Trump got the message that there is no place in Israel for a racist, chauvinist person like him,” she said. “This is a victory for Israel’s democratic values, the values that prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu abandoned in his insistence to meet with Trump.”

The Republican presidential frontrunner had been scheduled to meet Mr Netanyahu on December 28th and had also planned a controversial visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s old city, Judaism’s holiest site, which is revered by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif Noble Sanctuary.

“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 US,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I didn’t want to put him [Netanyahu] under pressure,” he told Fox News.

Mr Netanyahu defended the scheduled meeting as part of the policy of meeting with all presidential candidates from both parties and stressed that the trip was co-ordinated before Mr Trump’s comments on banning Muslims, which, he said, Israel rejected.

“Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said. “At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.”

Mr Netanyahu is ideologically very close to the Republicans and is often referred to by Israeli commentators as the Republican representative for Jerusalem. While it is an open secret that he would prefer a Republican victory next November, Mr Netanyahu has to be careful not to identify too closely with any candidate.

Likud Knesset member Tzachi Hanegbi said that it would have been “crazy” for the prime minister to boycott Mr Trump. “We should not be the judges. This is the Americans’ problem, they will choose who they vote for and not us.”