Following U.S.: Israel Will Not Join UN Migrant Rights Initiative

After a right-wing protest, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel would not sign onto the pact, which is not legally binding and which Australia, Hungary and Austria also declined to join

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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A Tel Aviv protest against the government's withdrawal from an agreement on asylum seekers.
A Tel Aviv protest against the government's decision to withdrawal from an agreement that it had reached in April 2018 with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Credit: Meged Gozani
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel will not sign a new UN initiative designed to protect migrants' rights – the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. 

"We are committed to guarding our borders against illegal migrants," Netanyahu tweeted, referring to the initiative.

The UN agreement is not legally binding on signatory countries but is a general declaration of intent expressing a willingness to adopt uniform rules to address growing migrant numbers.

The initiative includes goals to better manage migration at the local, national and global levels, and includes provisions to protect migrants' human rights and integration into their host countries.

It also recognizes the "legitimate concerns of communities" regarding migration waves around the world. The United States, Australia, Hungary and Austria are not signing the initiative, and have responded in a similar spirit as Netanyahu's tweet.

On Monday, the Israel Hayom daily reported that Israel considered supporting the initiative but had concerns about some of the values it was promoting including cultural sensitivity and gender sensitivity. There were also concerns that the agreement would apply not only to refugees but also to economic migrants.

The Israeli Immigration Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes the granting of asylum to African asylum seekers, had urged Netanyahu not to sign the initiative, which the group called "radical."

Following the Israel Hayom article and a right-wing protest on the issue, Netanyahu told Knesset members from his Likud party that Israel would not sign the agreement, a stance he made public the following day.