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‘Disappointed’ Mexico rebukes Israel over Trump wall praise

‘Mexico is Israel’s friend and should be treated as such,’ officials say after Netanyahu appears to hail US president’s border plan

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray gives a foreign policy speech after US President Donald Trump vowed to start renegotiating North American trade ties, in Mexico City on January 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT)
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray gives a foreign policy speech after US President Donald Trump vowed to start renegotiating North American trade ties, in Mexico City on January 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

Mexico on Saturday night chided Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for apparently endorsing US President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along its border with the United States.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a communique that it had expressed to Israel’s ambassador its “profound surprise, rejection and disappointment in the prime minister’s message on Twitter.”

“Mexico is Israel’s friend and should be treated as such,” the statement added.

On Saturday, Netanyahu had welcomed praise from Trump for Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank. Referring to the recently built fence along Israel’s border with Egypt, the prime minister said the measure had been a “great success” in keeping out migrants, who mainly came from African nations.

“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Netanyahu wrote in English on Twitter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) visit construction work on the fence between Israel and Jordan. February 9, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) visit construction work on the fence between Israel and Jordan. February 9, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Backtracking after Mexican officials demanded a clarification, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry stressed Saturday that Netanyahu was not commenting on US-Mexican relations.

“[Netanyahu] referred to our specific security experience which we are willing to share,” spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon wrote on Twitter.

“We do not express a position on US-Mexico relations.”

In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Trump appeared to tout Israel’s West Bank security barrier as an example of a successful deterrent to unlawful entry into a country. Israel built the barrier — a combination of fence, concrete wall and sophisticated sensors — in response to a massive wave of deadly Palestinian terrorism that hit the country during the Second Intifada at the start of the millennium, with suicide bombers traveling the short distances into Israel to carry out attacks. Israel saw a dramatic decline in suicide bombings in conjunction with the barrier’s construction.

“The wall is necessary,” Trump said Thursday. “That’s not just politics, and yet it is good for the heart of the nation in a certain way, because people want protection and a wall protects. All you’ve got to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 percent stoppage.”

The barrier along Israel’s Egyptian border is not a concrete wall as Trump is planning to build on the US-Mexico border, but rather a system of wire fencing and sensors.

African illegal migrants carry their belongings following their release from the Holot Detention Center in Israel's Negev desert, on August 25, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)
African illegal migrants carry their belongings following their release from the Holot Detention Center in Israel’s Negev desert, on August 25, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

The president announced Thursday that he was going ahead with his plan for the border wall, which he maintained Mexico would pay for, despite the country’s insistence that it will not foot the bill. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto nixed his planned January 31 meeting with Trump after the latter tweeted that the meeting should be canceled if Mexico won’t pay for the construction.

Israel built the Egyptian border fence in 2012, all but blocking illegal migration, and began extending a fence along its eastern frontier with Jordan. Since 2012, the Israeli government has requested that the illegal migrants in the country leave, giving cash grants to those who depart for their homes or some other African country. The government also has detained thousands of migrants since 2013 in Holot, a detention facility on the Egyptian border.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in the East Room of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May in the East Room of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

According to Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, more than 60,000 African migrants crossed into Israel illegally from Egypt between 2006 and 2012. The migrants, mostly from Eritrea, say they’re seeking asylum from a brutal dictatorship. Some 45,000 remained in the country as of 2015.

The government has viewed them as economic migrants looking for work and, with rare exceptions, has not recognized them as refugees.

Trump on Friday also signed an executive order temporarily banning entry to the US for all nationals from seven Muslim countries — Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — as part of sweeping measures that also suspend all refugee arrivals.

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