Netanyahu Defends Egypt Border Fence: Influx of African Migrants More Dangerous Than Terrorism

Israel would be facing terror attacks from the Sinai without the border fence, but even worse, says Netanyahu, the entry of over a million migrants

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a conference in the north of Israel on Monday March 19, 2018.
Gil Eliahu

The danger of African illegal immigrants entering Israel through the Sinai Peninsula is worse than the risk of terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. He said that if it weren't for the fence along the border with Egypt, Israel would lose its national character and face a hopeless situation.

“Attacks by terrorist groups in the Sinai, and the worst thing: A flood of illegal infiltrators from Africa,” he said in a speech to the Negev Conference in Dimona. If the fence along the border with Egypt did not prevent the entry of illegal immigrants, Israel’s national character would be in danger.

“How could we have guaranteed a Jewish-democratic state with 50,000 and after that 100,000, and it would have reached 1.5 million [illegal immigrants]?” said Netanyahu. We would have had to close down the country, but we didn’t, he added.

Netanyahu has discussed his intentions to expel the roughly 40,000 African migrants currently living in Israel - a population comprised predominately of Eritrean and Sudanese nationals. Single male asylum seekers are slated for deportation starting in April. 

Israel constructed a fence along its border with Egypt in response to the wave of migration that began in the early 2000s. Completed in 2012, the fence largely stymied the flow of border crossings to nearly zero by 2016.

“Israel is surrounded by strongholds of radical Islam and we are required to defend our borders. We have completed an incredible operation: Construction of a fence along 200 kilometers on the Sinai border. There was fierce opposition to the idea of a fence from Gaza to Eilat. It cost a huge amount of money. But I believed in it,” said Netanyahu.

In the speech, Netanyahu also said he has instructed the cabinet secretary to make the documents of the World Zionist Organization concerning settling Mizrahi new immigrants in the Negev accessible. “As we did in the Yemenite children affair, we will do here too.”