JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Donald Trump when the Republican presidential front-runner arrives in Israel later this month, Israeli officials said Wednesday.
Israeli officials said the prime minister’s Dec. 28 meeting with Trump was scheduled two weeks ago — before the billionaire developer called for banning all Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump said he wants “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Israel’s population is more than 20 percent Arab, and most of those citizens are Muslims.
The Israeli leader frequently meets with Republican and Democratic members of Congress. An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the prime minister’s schedule, said Wednesday that Netanyahu “will meet with any candidate from any party who will be arriving in Israel and request[s] a meeting.”
Support for Israel, and for Netanyahu in particular, is a given among Republican presidential candidates.
Netanyahu said late Wednesday that he would go ahead with the Trump meeting, although he tweeted that he “rejects Donald Trump’s latest comments about Muslims.”
On the eve of his historic election to a fourth term as prime minister in March, Netanyahu rallied supporters by warning darkly that “the rule of the right is in danger” because “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls” and being “bused to the polling stations by left-wing NGOs.”
Arab Israeli lawmakers called on the government Wednesday to block Trump’s visit to Israel. “He is not only a racist, but a danger to the free world,” said Issawi Frej, a member of parliament. “He is a man who incites against 20 percent of Israel’s population, a man who wants to fan the flames of hatred everywhere he visits.”
Jewish groups also widely condemned Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
The leader of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, warned that such a ban would be “unacceptable and antithetical to American values.” He said American Jews “know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating.”
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that “as a matter of policy, Israeli officials do not meet with racist and radical politicians who are shunned by their local Jewish communities.”
Netanyahu and other right-wing Israeli leaders shunned Jimmy Carter during his recent trips to Israel, claiming that the former president is “anti-Israel.” Carter has suggested that Israel is in danger of becoming an apartheid state unless it ends its 48-year-old military occupation of the West Bank and grants Palestinians a state or gives them equal rights as citizens.
On the stump, Trump has complained that the Obama administration “was the worst thing that’s happened to Israel.”
Trump has said that a nuclear deal reached with Iran in July could led to another “Holocaust.” Netanyahu has said that the nuclear deal intensifies an existential threat to Israel from Iran, whose leaders have called for the dissolution of the Jewish state.
“Israel was sold out by Kerry and Obama,” Trump said in August, referring to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the chief U.S. negotiator in the talks. “You cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon. You can’t have it. When they march down the street saying ‘Death to Israel. Death to the United States.’ You can’t let that happen.”
Trump has said that as president he would know in six months whether he could broker a deal to end the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to make it,” Trump said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.
“A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” Trump said. “They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m okay with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”
Trump was jeered last week during an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition after he refused to say that Jerusalem should be the undivided and recognized capital of Israel. “You know what I want to do? I want to wait until I meet with Bibi,” Trump said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
The United States and other nations have their embassies in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem, whose eastern flanks are considered occupied territory under international law, although Israel disputes this.