MILFORD, NH — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) chided presidential rival Donald Trump on Thursday after the real-estate mogul abruptly canceled a hastily scheduled trip to Israel planned for later this month.
Trump early Thursday morning postponed the trip, which had been scheduled to include a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The cancellation came just a day after Trump originally said he planned to visit the nation.
In an interview with Business Insider later Thursday, Bush wasn’t surprised at the quick change of plans.
“Of course it was canceled. Who would want to see him after he created a real problem by a blanket statement that wasn’t serious?” Bush said after speaking at a town-hall event here.
Bush was referring to Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US in the aftermath of last week’s shooting in San Bernardino, California, where both suspects had reportedly been inspired by the Islamic State terror group.
Netanyahu had said he had planned to talk with any US presidential candidate who requested a meeting, so as not to appear favourable toward any particular candidate. But news of Trump’s potential visit caused an uproar and prompted calls for Netanyahu to cancel the meeting.
“Look — the guy’s not serious. He’s not a serious person. He can’t be commander-in-chief. He doesn’t have plans. This is all dog-whistle talk,” Bush said. “This is to provoke anger. This is to — with all due respect to the media — this is to generate massive attention to him. It’s not about a serious plan. Is that a serious plan in all reality? Of course not.”
Bush called him “unhinged” in a fierce statement minutes after learning of Trump’s proposal earlier in the week. A number of Trump’s rivals in the Republican race also condemned his proposal.
And in a statement on Wednesday, Netanyahu also made clear that he rejected Trump’s comments, as his office issued a statement that said Israel “respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all of its citizens.”
Bush said it was evidently clear why Netanyahu wouldn’t want to meet with a US presidential candidate who is “endorsing a view that would be against his national-security interests.”
“If you view it as a serious proposal, which it isn’t, what he’s proposing is weakening our position in the world. making it harder for us to be protected. Not stronger. He’s weakening the United States’ posture in the world, and he’s keeping our country less safe.”
Business Insider asked if that was the case already. Bush said his statement alone is detrimental to the US’ foreign-policy interests.
“By his statement!” Bush said. “If that statement was to be a policy and was implemented, it would make us harder for us to take out ISIS. Near impossible. It would make it harder for us to engage in the world. No one would take us seriously. This is ludicrous. This is not even worth talking about.”
Trump also faced backlash last week after he spoke before a gathering of Republican Jewish donors, after which he was accused of promoting “offensive stereotypes” toward Jews.
For his part, Trump told Fox News on Thursday that he postponed the visit until “after I become president” didn’t want to put Netanyahu under any pressure.
“You know, he said, ‘We have a meeting.’ And he looks forward to the meeting and all of that. But I didn’t want to put him under pressure, No. 1. I also did it because I’m in the midst of a very powerful campaign that’s going very well and it was not that easy to do. So I would say lots of different reasons,” Trump said when asked about the cancellation.
Bush and Trump have feuded prominently on the campaign trail this year, as Trump has surged in the GOP race largely at the expense of Bush. The former Florida governor has sought to expose Trump’s inexperienced and supposed lack of seriousness as a potential commander-in-chief in recent weeks.
At the town-hall event, Bush joked that he had told his staff earlier in the day that he had “almost promised not to use his name today.” But he couldn’t resist. When one New Hampshire voter asked him his plan on immigration, he contrasted his view with Trump’s stated goal of deporting the approximately 11 million people living in the country unlawfully.
“That’s not a serious proposal. He’s not a serious man,” Bush said.
He added: “Pass that along, by the way. Because that will get him upset.”