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Netanyahu denounces Donald Trump remarks about Muslims

Jerusalem : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced on Wednesday statements made by US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, ahead of the latter’s scheduled controversial visit to Israel later this month.

Trump said earlier this week that US authorities should block entrance by all Muslims to the country, following the deadly terror attacks in Paris in November and in the US last week, perpetrated by Muslims who adhere the Islamic State organisation.

“Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office read, Xinhua reported.

The statement added that Israel “respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens”, but it is also “fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews.”

Trump said on his Twitter account on Wednesday that “he is very much looking forward to” visiting Israel prior to the end of 2015, triggering criticism amid Israeli parliament members.

About 40 Israeli lawmakers signed a petition on Wednesday calling to cancel the upcoming visit, mostly members of the centre-left opposition.

“While leaders around the world condemn the Republican presidential candidate’s racist and outrageous remarks, Netanyahu is warmly embracing him,” the petition read, adding that the upcoming meeting between Netanyahu and Trump “disgraces Israel’s democratic character and hurts its Muslim citizens.”

The Prime Minister’s Office clarified that the upcoming visit was scheduled two weeks ago, prior to the firebrand remarks, adding that the meeting does not reflect an endorsement, but rather a policy of meeting any US presidential candidate, regardless of their views.

Muslim accounts for nearly one-fifth of Israel’s population.