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Mexico rebukes Israel over Netanyahu's tweet on border wall

January 29, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed US President Donald Trump's decision to build a wall on the border with Mexico. The message drew a sharp response from the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

Grenzzaun Mexiko USA
Image: Reuters/J. L. Gonzalez

Mexico's government rebuked Israel for a tweet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in support of Trump's plan to build a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Netanyahu's tweet, which compared the planned border fortification with a wall that Israel had built on the country's southern border with Egypt under Netanyahu's leadership, implied this was a "great idea" to keep out illegal immigrants.

Netanyahu's comment was, however, "forcefully rejected" by leaders of the Jewish community in Mexico. Mony de Swaan, a former head of the Mexican telecommunications regulator, replied to Netanyahu's words by posting images of walls from various Nazi concentration camps, implying these could serve as "a couple of nice designs" for Netanyahu to choose.

Mexico hits back

President Trump had signed the executive order to "plan, design and construct a physical wall" along the 3,200-kilometre (2,000-mile) US-Mexico border earlier in the week, making good on one of his main campaign pledges.

Enrique Pena Nieto Präsident Mexiko
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto staunchly disagrees with the erection of the wallImage: picture-alliance/AP/M. Ugarte

In an interview after signing the order, Trump had cited Israel's 240-kilometer (150-mile) wall which, he claimed, had managed to "stop 99.9 percent" of illegal immigration into Israel.

Trump's comments were also seen as a sign of support of Israel's own controversial walls, which - in addtition to curbing migrants coming from the south - also divide Israeli and Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The controversy surrounding Netanyahu's statement regarding the wall meanwhile also prompted an unusually blunt statement from Mexico's foreign ministry:

"The Foreign Ministry expressed to the government of Israel, via its ambassador in Mexico, its profound astonishment, rejection and disappointment over Prime Minister Netanyahu's message on Twitter about the construction of a border wall.

"Mexico is a friend of Israel and should be treated as such by its Prime Minister," the ministry said.

Mexico has been increasingly outspoken about its disapproval of Trump's border policy; Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a visit to meet Trump after US president had advised him to forgo the trip if he was not willing to pay for the erection of the wall. Trump maintains that he will find a way to make Mexico "pay for the wall."

Backtracking on statement

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that the Prime Minister's office issued a statement stressing that Netanyahu was not trying to voice an actual opinion on US-Mexican relations.

Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon also said in a tweet that Netanyahu had referred to "our specific security experience which we are willing to share. We do not express a position on US-Mexico relations."

ss/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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