Hatim Khan – 09.04.2018- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backtracked and scrapped the deal that Israel had made with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hours after it was signed last week on Monday. According to the deal Israel would stop implementing its plan of mass deportation of around 34000 asylum seekers mainly from Sudan and Eretria back to their countries. According to the plan put forward by Netanyahu last January, the asylum seekers were given two choices; either to be deported back to the countries from which the escaped to avoid persecution or be imprisoned in Israeli jails for an indefinite period of time.
The UN agency intervened with a deal in order to prevent this plan from being executed. However the deal did not sit well with right-wing groups and politicians including members from the Prime Ministers own political party, Likud. Netanyahu caved in to the pressure from them and as a result backtracked on the deal which planned to resettle half of the 34000 asylum seekers in western countries such as Canada, Germany and Italy while the rest were to be given temporary residence status in Israel and would remain there.
On Monday, Netanyahu had praised the deal to be a good agreement both for the locals of southern Tel Aviv as well as the dense population of asylum seekers living there. However pressure mounted from right-wing factions within the government as well as the residence of southern Tel Aviv who opposed the arrival of African asylum seekers from 2005 onwards who accused them to be enemy infiltrators.
Having the support of these right-wing blocks within the government is crucial for the Prime Minister as they played a central role in his re-election. Furthermore, he needs this popular support now more than ever, as he is currently immersed in numerous corruption scandals that may be detrimental to his political career. This is widely believed to be the reason why the Prime Minister quickly kneeled to the right-wing backlash at his decision and changed his tone. Last Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “After having heard numerous comments on the agreement, I have examined the pros and cons and have decided to cancel the agreement”.