JERUSALEM — GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump canceled plans Thursday to visit to Israel, a trip for which even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — widely seen as an ally of the Republican Party — had shown little enthusiasm.
Trump announced his decision on Twitter, saying he would reschedule "at a later date after I become President of the U.S." Appearing on Fox News, he said there were many reasons for the move, among them that he didn't want to put Netanyahu in a bind.
"In fact, I did a campaign ad for him, and he's a good man, but I didn't want to put him under pressure," Trump said. "I also did it because I'm in the midst of a powerful campaign that's going very well."
Trump, who has maintained a wide lead in most early preference polling, unleashed an uproar this week when he called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. The billionaire businessman has cast the idea as a prudent step in the wake of the mass shooting by an Islamic militant couple of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., while critics call it both racist and unconstitutional.
Trump also drew criticism from some American Jews for his comments last week to a gathering of Jewish donors. He was booed after refusing to endorse Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel — a key Israeli position. Some of his other comments were seen by some as promoting Jewish stereotypes.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a briefing that "most people are relieved that he's reconsidered" the visit to Israel.
"The situation in Israel is particularly volatile, and so I think in this case, his decision to reconsider that trip is a good outcome for all of those involved," Earnest added.
From the day he launched his candidacy, Trump's campaign has been driven by one controversy after the next. There was his assertion that the Mexican government was sending its rapists and criminals across the border; his statement that Sen. John McCain wasn't a war hero because he was captured; his feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly; a series of factually inaccurate remarks; and the time he called Iowa voters stupid.
Each time, Trump's comments have drawn fury from his opponents and prompted pundits to predict his pending demise. But each time, Trump has emerged unscathed.
Trump on Thursday received the endorsement of a New England union that represents police and corrections officers, and said that, as president, he would call for the death penalty for any person who kills a cop.
The endorsement comes from the New England Police Benevolent Association.
Executive board members, who attended a closed-door meeting to cast their votes, said that Trump's comments about Muslims had come up briefly in their discussion. But they said that most of the conversation had centered on his past comments in support of police.
The union represents nearly 5,000 members from about 200 locals across the region.