The border fence between Israel and Egypt along Highway 12.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night lauded United States President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexican border.
"President Trump is right,” Netanyahu tweeted in a message that displayed an Israeli and an American flag. “I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” he added.
Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro also took to twitter on Saturday night to comment on Trump US-Mexico wall plan. He placed Netanyahu's tweet within the larger context of the relationship between the two leaders, who are scheduled to meet in Washington next month.
Israeli-Egypt border fence
"PM Netanyahu's top aide's [sic] told me a key goal in Trump's era was keeping bipartisan support for Israel. Now this?" Shapiro tweeted.
"Israel's challenges with Sinai border not similar to US border. Their solution (a fence, not a wall) works for them, would not for us," Shapiro wrote.
"Hard to explain this intervention on a hotly debated issue in domestic US politics. Unless this endorsement is Trump's demand of Netanyahu for something Netanyahu wants, the quid pro quo. But for what? Canceling the Iran deal? Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem? Supporting building in settlement blocs?"
"To me, it looks like Trump is already squeezing Netanyahu hard. 'The Art of the Deal,'" Shapiro added.
Yesh Atid Party head MK Yair Lapid attacked Netanyahu on Twitter, accusing him of straining Israeli-Mexican ties but coming out in support of a project that Mexico has vehemently opposed.
“Netanyahu made a serious mistake,” Lapid said. “With his tweet in support of Trump’s wall, he is crudely stepping into a conflict that is tearing apart American society,” he said.
“It’s a needless declaration of war on Mexico and Hispanics,” said Lapid. The statement was also a form of divorce form the Democratic party, to which a majority of American Jews belong.
“His opinion on the wall is not important. Don’t we have enough problems of our own?” Lapid said.
Later in the evening, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon sent out his own tweet about Netanyahu's statement.
"[Netanyahu] referred to our specific security experience which we are willing to share. We do not express a position on US-Mexico relations."
On Thursday, in an interview with Fox News, Trump pointed to Israel as an example of a country where the construction of a wall had successfully stopped refugees and migrants from illegally crossing the border.
“People want protection,” Trump said. “And a wall protects. All you have to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across and, and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 percent stoppage,” Trump said.
Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry said in a report that it had completed raising the height of the electronic “smart” fence along part of the border with Egypt to stop infiltration into the country by migrants. Construction of the original barrier, equipped with information collection centers and warning systems and known as the Hourglass Project, was completed in 2014 at a height of five meters along 242 kilometers, from the Gaza Strip to Eilat on the Red Sea.
The government built the fence in the hope that it would stop illegal migration, drug and weapons trafficking and terrorist infiltrations.
According to the Defense Ministry, the fence has already slashed the number of illegal African migrants arriving in Israel, with only 213 breaching the barrier in 2015. But the number of successful infiltrations prompted authorities to raise the height from 5 meters to 8 meters along a 17-kilometer stretch, the ministry said.
The raising of the fence, along with additional detection devices, “significantly curbed the flow of illegal infiltration into Israel, with only 11 successful attempts to cross the fence throughout 2016,” it said.
Trump's promise of erecting a barrier along the US-Mexico border was a campaign cornerstone throughout the 2016 election, vowing to make America's southern neighbor pay for its construction. Initial cost evaluations for the proposed project have been estimated between 12 and 15 billions dollars, according to Reuters.
The issue, however, has caused a quick souring of relations between the new administration and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who cancelled a meeting between the two leaders earlier in the week. Mexico has consistently said it will refuse to pay for the structure.Daniel J. Roth and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.
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