By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A senior Israeli official justified the "profiling" of Muslims as potential security threats on Monday after U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump said Americans should adopt Israel's disputed practice.

Arabs, who make up a fifth of Israel's population, and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation have long complained of being singled out for scrutiny and searches at security checkpoints when going about their routine activities.

Trump, the Republican front-runner who has been buoyed by Americans' worries about Islamic militancy, said on Sunday he believed that "profiling is something that we're going to have to start thinking about as a country".

"You look at Israel and you look at others, and they do it and they do it successfully," he told CBS' "Face the Nation".

Asked about the remarks, Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz declined to discuss the U.S. election campaign but was unapologetic about Israel's methods.

"Ultimately these (security) apparatuses ... must build a profile of characteristics as to where the danger comes from and locate it," he said in a briefing to foreign journalists arranged by the Israel Project advocacy group.

"It is not the whole population, but sometimes when there is a specific form of terrorism, you can seek out Islamic terrorism only among Muslims."

Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, a suspension of immigration from countries with "a proven history of terrorism" and for greater scrutiny of American mosques.

Some U.S. security officials, including FBI director James Comey, have chafed at Trump's suggestion that American Muslims do not do enough to report potential militants in their midst.

“I personally have been called by (Muslim) community members about several things, very significant things,” Michael Downing, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and head of its Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau, told Reuters last week. “What we say to communities is that we don’t want you to profile humans, we want you to profile behavior.”

But Katz, who confers with foreign counterparts, said "profiling" on the basis of ethnicity was a de facto U.S. practice.

"The United States does do this, by the way, beyond the debate over whether they refer to terrorism as 'Islamic' or do not refer to terrorism as 'Islamic'," he said.

"Contrary to the Europeans, who do not do either - some of them neither define (potential threats) nor take this action - the Americans do do it, and do know how to take action, and they do this activity."

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich)