Trump to visit Israel in December amid raging controversy over his remarks about Muslims

After calling for a sweeping temporary ban on all Muslims trying to enter the US, 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump has angered many including in the Middle East where he is expected to visit Israel later this month.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Donald Trump’s call to keep Muslims from traveling to the United States is causing dismay among business leaders in the Middle East, where the billionaire presidential candidate has done business for years, a region viewed as well-suited for his brand of over-the-top luxury.

Trump announced Tuesday he intends to visit Israel in the coming weeks, and his announcement has already generated a stir among Israel’s Arabs and left-wing lawmakers.

Emirati business magnate Khalaf al-Habtoor only months ago proclaimed his support for the Republican candidate for president, but that’s all changed in the wake of Trump’s increasingly incendiary comments about Islam.

“If he comes to my office, I will not let him in. I reject him,” al-Habtoor told The Associated Press. “Maybe we can meet somewhere where I can debate with him in a very civilized way, not in the way he approaches people.”

Trump has for years looked to do business in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf and the emirate of Dubai. Trump has lent his name to two high-profile Dubai golf course projects and an ongoing real estate development, and sought for years to expand his hotel chain into the region.

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But some of his rhetoric about Islam on the campaign trail — including his call to monitor mosques and his proposal this week to temporarily bar Muslims from traveling to the US in wake of the San Bernardino Islamic terror attack — has led to increased wariness in the Arab world. Trump’s campaign did not respond to questions about his reputation and business dealings in the Middle East.

In a column published Aug. 9 in The National, the state-owned  newspaper of Abu Dhabi, al-Habtoor praised Trump for believing “in bringing back his country’s superpower status.”

But late last month, al-Habtoor wrote a follow-up column on Trump that began with: “I was wrong and I do not mind admitting it.”

“When strength is partnered with ignorance and deceit, it produces a toxic mix threatening the United States and our world,” he wrote, ending his column by endorsing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s Mixed Remarks on the Middle East

Trump has made other comments at times praising or ridiculing countries in the Middle East. At a recent campaign rally, Trump applauded Qatar’s new, at least $15 billion airport, while calling US airports “third-world.” He traveled to the Qatari capital, Doha, in April 2008 to see developments there.

Trump also made comments in 2011, as well as this year, falsely saying that Kuwait paid nothing to the US for driving out occupying Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War. US congressional records show Kuwait contributed $16.1 billion for the war.

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Those Gulf War comments recently drew boos on a comedy talk show in Kuwait, which still holds the US in high regard for coming to its aid in the war.

Hamad al-Ali, the comedian who poked fun at them, was critical of Trump’s latest comments on barring Muslims.

“He shouldn’t promote these types of ideas. These kinds of ideas are from some sort of person who is not educated,” he told the AP.

Newspapers in the Emirates also criticized Trump in their Wednesday editions, with the Gulf News saying his “extremism is no different than that of Daesh,” referring to the Islamic State (ISIS) group. The paper offered him this advice: “Zip it, Donald. Just zip it.”

The Republican presidential candidate on Tuesday denied an Associated Press report that he planned to visit the majority-Muslim kingdom of Jordan at the end of December.

Trump tweeted Tuesday, “Despite my great respect for King Abdullah II, I will not be visiting Jordan at this time. This is in response to the false @AP report.”