Trump heading to Israel despite Netanyahu rejection of Muslim ban

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.

AP

Last Updated Dec 9, 2015 1:30 PM EST

Donald Trump will make the first foreign trip of his campaign to Israel at the end of the month and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Dec. 28, an Israeli government official confirmed to CBS News.

The trip is apparently going forward in spite of the fact that 37 members of the Israeli Knesset signed a letter to Netanyahu Wednesday calling on Netanyahu to condemn Trump and refuse a meeting with him after Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

"While leaders around the world condemn the Republican presidential candidate's racist and outrageous remarks, Netanyahu is warmly embracing him," Knesset member Michal Rozin said, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "Their meeting in the end of the month backs up [Trump's] racist statements, thus disgracing Israel's democratic character and hurting its Muslim citizens."

An official tweet from the Prime Minister's account Wednesday addressed the issue.

"The Prime Minister rejects Trumps recent statements about Muslims. However, the PM had previously established a consistent policy to grant requests for meeting coming from American presidential candidates from both parties when they visit Israel," Netanyahu's office said in a statement. "This policy does not reflect support for any candidate or for their policy, but rather reflects the importance the Prime Minister accords to the steadfast alliance between Israel and the US."

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who has not signed the petition, said his office had not yet been approached requesting a meeting with Trump but "we will consider it."

"Herzog hopes that when Trump comes to Israel, he will learn that his positions are misguided and will discover a reality in which the Arab population is flourishing and developing and it is possible to lead to a reality of fruitful coexistence if all human beings are treated with equal rights and with dignity," he said in a statement.

Initial reports indicated that Trump would travel to Jordan, but the Republican presidential candidate said on Twitter Tuesday evening he would not be visiting during this trip, despite "great respect" for Jordan's King Abdullah.

The business mogul has some headway to make with Republican Jews in America after an icy reception during his speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum last week. Among his missteps: Not unequivocally calling Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel, and trying to establish a common identity with the audience by calling them "businesspeople" and "dealmakers."

"We do not believe he intended his comments regarding negotiations and money to relate specifically to their Jewishness, but we understand that they could be interpreted that way. We encourage him to clarify that this was not his intention, and that he rejects the traditional stereotypes about Jews and money," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement after Trump's speech.

On the question of Jerusalem as the capital, Trump said, ""You know what I want to do? I want to wait till I meet with Bibi, you know, I'm leaving for Israel in a very short period of time."

The Israeli government official said the meeting with Netanyahu was scheduled two weeks ago.

Trump has also attempted to forge a closer relationship with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, one of the most prominent Israel supporters in the United States. In early November, Trump admitted he had reached out to Adelson, but denied he was asking for money.

An unnamed source close to Adelson told Politico at the time that Trump's campaign made "a very clear ask for money" by reaching out.

Trump has suggested that Adelson is looking to buy a "perfect little puppet" with his donations.

CBS News Digital Political Journalist Kylie Atwood contributed to this story.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.