Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced support Saturday for U.S. President Donald Trump plan to build a border wall along America's border with Mexico and praised Trump for referencing Israel in defending his wall.
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"President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea," Netanyahu tweeted.
Afterwards, following anger from Mexico, the Prime Minister Office clarified Netanyahu's statement, saying that "the prime minister was addressing Israel's unique circumstances and the important experience we have and which we are willing to share with other nations. There was no attempt to voice an opinion regarding U.S.-Mexico ties."
With the statement, Netanyahu thrust himself into the political debate currently raging in the U.S. over Trump's immigration policies, and to a greater extent also into the severe diplomatic crisis between Mexico and the U.S. which saw the Mexican president cancel a scheduled meeting with Trump.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Trump invoked Israel to justify his proposed plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. "The wall is necessary," the president explained, "because people want protection and a wall protects. All you have to do is ask Israel."
Trump explained that Israel suffered from a "disaster" of illegal immigration, but once it built a wall, "it stopped 99.9%."
The president was probably referring to Israel's border fence with Egypt, which was set up in 2013 and has drastically decreased the number of immigrants and refugees from Africa who cross into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula.
'Trump is squeezing Netanyahu hard'
The former U.S. ambassador to the Israel, Dan Shapiro, who left the position 10 days ago, said in a series of tweets on Saturday that Netanyahu's remarks undermine the American bipartisan support for Israel.
"PM @netanyahu's top aide's told me a key goal in Trump's era was keeping bipartisan support for Israel. Now this?" Shapiro tweeted, referring to the prime minister's statement.
"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?" he continued.
Also on Twitter, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid called Netanyahu statement "a grave mistake." Netanyahu has put a "crude foot in the conflict that is tearing U.S. society apart" by saying he supports Trump's border wall, Lapid said. The statement, Lapid wrote, is an" unnecessary declaration of war on Mexico and the Hispanics, and a divorce from the Democrats (including most U.S. Jewry. It doesn't matter what we think about the wall, don't we have enough trouble of our own?"