Israeli president to Mexican counterpart: Wall comparisons are ‘misunderstanding’


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told his counterpart from Mexico that Israel had “no intention” of comparing its border wall with Egypt to the one proposed by President Donald Trump between Mexico and the United States.

Rivlin spoke by phone to Enrique Pena Nieto on Tuesday evening in Israel amid the diplomatic uproar between Israel and Mexico since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a tweet Saturday in which he was seen as supporting Trump’s plan to keep out illegal immigrants.

Rivlin called it “a very important conversation for us,” according to his office. “Mexico and Israel have warm and good ties, and we see this in our close cooperation in many fields.

“The security situation in Israel, and the entire Middle East, brought us to the important decision to build a fence on our [southern] border. We have no intention of comparing the security situation in the State of Israel, and the steps forced upon us, to the situation of any of our friends around the world,” he said, calling the comparison of the situation in Israel and the situation in Mexico a “misunderstanding.”

Rivlin continued: “The ties between us are so very strong and important, and we must leave behind us any such misunderstanding. We share so much cooperation and I have no doubt that the future will only bring the strengthening of these ties. I am sorry for any hurt caused as a result of this misunderstanding, but we must remember that we are talking about a misunderstanding, and I am sure that we can put the issue behind us.”

Pena Nieto thanked Rivlin for his willingness to find a solution to the situation.

“I want to tell you very clearly Mr. President,” he said, “that Mexico has always been willing to have a very close relationship with your country. I do want to tell you that Mexico is more than willing to maintain this mutual cooperation. Unfortunately this cooperation has been hurt because of this tweet.”

He added that Mexico has called for public clarification on the issue.

Netanyahu, in an address Tuesday at the CyberTech conference in Tel Aviv, in remarks distributed to reporters by his office, said by way of explanation: “I did point out the remarkable success of Israel’s security fence. But I did not comment about U.S.-Mexico relations. We’ve had, and will continue to have, good relations with Mexico. And I believe our ties are much stronger than any passing disagreement or misunderstanding. And in fact, I’ve had a long, fruitful and very friendly relationship with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and it will continue.”

On Saturday morning, Netanyahu said on Twitter that “President Trump is right.”

“I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Netanyahu said in a tweet that featured the American and Israeli flag icons. The White House later retweeted the message.

Following Mexico’s criticism of Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office and Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement to clarify the original tweet, saying that Netanyahu “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.”

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