Mexico Demands Israeli Apology After Netanyahu Voices Support for Trump's Wall

PM's tweet backing Trump's plan to build a wall 'felt like an aggressive act,' Mexican foreign minister says. Netanyahu accuses 'leftist' media of exacerbating the diplomatic crisis.

Netanyahu during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, January 30, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray called Monday on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize for voicing support for U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, adding that Netanyahu's remarks "felt like an aggressive act."

"We hope that the Israeli government will have the sensitivity to correct Netanyahu's statement," Videgaray said.

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Israel's ambassador to Mexico, Yoni Peled, has been summoned for a meeting at the Mexican Foreign Ministry on Monday evening over the crisis.

Ealier on Monday, Netanyahu accused the media of exaggerating the crisis with Mexico following a tweet by the premier in which he voiced support for U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Netanyahu also cited the border fence that Israel built on the Egyptian border as successful in stopping the flow of migrants into Israel.

"The leftist media is on a Bolshevik witch hunt, brainwashing and character assassination against me and my family," Netanyahu said at a Knesset faction meeting.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will talk with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, on Tuesday to resolve the crisis between the two nations.

On Saturday the prime minister voiced what seemed to be support for Trump's plan to build a border wall along America's border with Mexico and praised Trump for referencing Israel in defending his wall. 

"President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea," Netanyahu tweeted.

Mexico's Foreign Ministry expressed "dismay and disappointment" over Netanyahu's tweet. Interior Minister Arye Dery demanded that Netanyahu apologize for the tweet, but the prime minister refused.

Videgaray also called on Netanyahu to apologize, saying Mexico expects the Israeli government to show the sensitivity to rectify the prime minister's comments. Israeli Ambassador Peled was scheduled to meet with Videgaray to discuss the crisis on Monday.

Lashing out at the media at a meeting of his Likud party Knesset faction on Monday, Netanyahu accused of the media of exaggerating the crisis and creating fake news. "Commentators made a big deal in the media," his said. "These are the same commentators who had previously said that I needed to forgo Israel's defense assets of the first order for the sake of good relations with the prior president at the White House [Barack Obama] and now they are saying: 'You've hurt Mexico, destroyed relations with them.'"

"President Trump praised the fence that was built on my directive on our border with Egypt. He said that it almost totally stopped illegal infiltration into Israel, and I said in response that he was correct," Netanyahu recounted, adding that the media focus is deflecting attention to the fence's success in a constant flood of what he said is "fake news."

Tzipi Livni, the co-leader of the opposition Zionist Union Knesset faction, said: "Netanyahu's desire to receive applause in Israel over the fence [on the Israeli-Egyptian border] has caused an embarrassing diplomatic incident with an important and friendly country. Netanyahu should make it clear that he has no intention to interfere in relations among Israel's friends and that he respects the various interests of each of them."