Donald Trump is taking his hateful circus to the place in the world that needs it the least. The GOP front-runner, who this week called for banning Muslims from entering the United States, will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a trip to the country on Dec. 28, and is also reportedly considering a visit to the Temple Mount, a flashpoint for recent unrest in Israel and the West Bank. Trump has not asked to visit the Knesset (the Israeli legislature), but some MKs have nonetheless taken up a petition to bar him from the assembly. Zehava Gal-on, chairwoman of the opposition Meretz party, called Trump’s recent statements “racist” and said it is “embarrassing that Netanyahu is willing to legitimize Trump as a reasonable candidate who is worth a meeting with a head of state.”
She’s right. Trump is a big Bibi fan. He has endorsed Netanyahu’s re-election bids, described him as a “terrific guy,” and expressed regret that he can’t be president of the United States. A spokesman for Netanyahu said that the prime minister “doesn’t agree with every statement by every candidate” in response to Trump’s recent remarks. But given his stature within the American Republican Party, Netanyahu has to know that a meeting with Trump will look at least like an affirmation of his legitimacy, if not an outright endorsement, particularly coming so soon after Trump’s Muslim proposal as well as a high-profile speech laden with offensive Jewish stereotypes.
(Update, Dec. 9, 2015: Netanyahu’s office has put out a statement saying that the prime minister “rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims” and that the meeting had been arranged two weeks ago. This is still likely to get a lot less attention than the meeting itself. Netanyahu could have called off the meeting following Trump’s proposal. Given his standing in the Republican party, this would probably have had far more impact than attacks from Trump’s rivals or congressional leaders. He has, for now at least, chosen not to.)
Not every country is willing to play host to the Trump show. Trump said Wednesday that he is not planning to visit Jordan on the same trip, contradicting an earlier AP report that the U.S. government was making preparations for his planned visit to the majority Muslim kingdom.
Trump’s recent comments have been met with widespread condemnation abroad and prompted world leaders—including British Prime Minister David Cameron and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, both of whom are dealing with their own controversies involving Muslim immigration—to take the rare step of directly criticizing a U.S. presidential candidate. A petition to ban Trump from the U.K. under the country’s hate speech laws has been signed by more than 100,000 people and will be considered for debate in Parliament. Trump had already been a favorite punching bag of politicians in Mexico for months, though leaders of China—one of his other favorite targets—mostly seem baffled by him. Not that this aspirant for America’s highest office who has touted his ability to “get along with everybody” cares in the slightest about how he is viewed by other world leaders. He started off Wednesday by trashing German Chancellor and Time Person of the Year honoree Angela Merkel on Twitter.
There are a lot of nightmare scenarios to imagine if Trump becomes president, but today I’m picturing one hellish G-8 summit.