Amid concern in Jerusalem that images of Israel rounding up and deporting
African migrants is harming Israel’s relations with African countries, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met visiting Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane
Ouattara Monday and praised what he said was the “close state of bilateral
relations” between the two nations.
A statement put out by the Prime
Minister’s Office said Ouattara “expressed agreement that Israel should
repatriate Ivory Coast nationals” who arrived in Israel without
Of the 65,000 African migrants believed to be in the country,
the numbers from the Côte d’Ivoire range from a few hundred to some
While up until the middle of last year it was impossible to deport
Ivorians because the country was in the throes of civil violence, that situation
has changed since Ouattara came to power in April.
Now, according to
diplomatic officials, Ouattara’s government is interested in its citizens
returning from various locations around the world because it will signal that
stability has returned to the country.
According to the Prime Minister’s
Office statement, in addition to discussing the migrant issue, the two men also
discussed terrorist threats facing both countries, as well as cooperation in the
fields of health, agriculture, science and technology.
Netanyahu said he
was pleased to meet Ouattara, a Muslim who won the elections there in November
2010 but was only able to take control of the country in April after French
Special Forces arrested his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to
peacefully give up power.
“Links between us are strengthening quickly,
and your visit strengthens them even more,” Netanyahu said.
replied that he was happy to be in Israel, and noted the “strong historic links”
between the two countries.
Israel and Côte d’Ivoire first forged ties in
1962. Like the rest of Africa, Côte d’Ivoire cut off relations with Israel after
the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The ties were renewed in 1986.
have long maintained a relationship with Ouattara, who worked together for a
number of years in the International Monetary Fund with Bank of Israel
Israel has carried out arrests of Ivorians
in the past, but not in the large scale sense that arrests of South Sudanese
have been carried out recently.
Deportations will he held after the first
of July, according to the Population, Immigration and Border Authority. A
petition against their deportations was overruled earlier this month.
Hartman contributed to this report.