Donald Trump, the leading US presidential candidate from the Republican Party, has postponed a planned trip to Israel, saying he will reschedule "at a later date after I become President of the US."
Trump tweeted Thursday that he is canceling the trip, which had become risky for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Trump called for preventing Muslims from entering the US and making controversial comments about Jews.
Trump told Fox News there were many reasons he decided to hold off on the trip, slated for December 18, including that he didn't want to put Netanyahu under pressure.
US presidential candidates often visit Israel as part of efforts to appeal to Jewish voters and donors back home and boost their foreign policy credentials.
The cancelation comes just a day after 37 members of the Israeli Knesset, nearly one-third of Israel’s parliament, sent a letter to Netanyahu calling on him to cancel the meeting.
Although viewed as a Republican Party supporter, Netanyahu tweeted on Wednesday that he "rejects" Trump's Muslim ban.
The billionaire businessman also sparked criticism among many American Jews last week after speaking to a gathering of Jewish political donors, making 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."
However, some observers say Netanyahu’s rejection of Trump’s offensive statements about Muslims are hypocritical, given his own brutal policies against Palestinians.
"Privately, I'm guessing Netanyahu is rather enjoying the global row over Trump's call to prevent Muslims entering the United States," wrote commentator David Horovitz in the Times of Israel website.
Trump, whose campaign has been marked by controversy from the beginning, stood by his anti-Muslim proposal on Tuesday, saying it was a temporary move in response to last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.