Israel’s president calms tensions with Mexico over controversial tweet

Rivlin spoke by phone with the Mexican president concerning Netanyahu’s tweet on an issue sensitive to Americans and Mexicans, which created backlash not only on a diplomatic level, but also for the Jewish community there. 

President Reuven Rivlin spoke on the phone on Tuesday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in order to smooth tensions over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tweet Saturday night, saying the US President Donald Trump is “right” to build a wall at the border with Mexico

Rivlin stressed in the conversation that the “strong ties” between Mexico and Israel were not just between states, but between the peoples and between leaders who hold each other in great esteem, Rivlin’s spokesman said.

Netanyahu created resentment in Mexico by tweeting, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

Netanyahu was referencing a recently constructed fence on Israel’s southwestern border with Egypt meant to stop the illegal immigration of tens of thousands of African migrants into Israel.

“All you’ve got to do is ask Israel,” Trump said when speaking of what he felt is the necessity of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. “They (Israel) were having a total disaster coming across and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 percent stoppage.”

Rivlin, in his talk with Nieto, explained the apparent “misunderstanding.”

“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.

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“I am sure that nobody intended to compare between the situation of Israel, and the situation of Mexico – rather this was a misunderstanding,” he stressed. “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.”

Nieto thanked Rivlin for his efforts at reconciliation, saying, “I want to tell you very clearly Mr. President, 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.”

Although he now understood the reason for the tweet, its original interpretation was inevitable, Nieto said. “This of course obviously generated various reactions in Mexico, I am certain that you are aware of these reactions,” including Mexico’s request for a public clarification on the issue.

“You can rest assured that Mexico wants to continue being a good friend of Israel,” he continued, adding that he would convey Rivlin’s message to the Mexican people.

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‘Netanyahu’s Words Problematic’ for Jews in Mexico

According to Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, chief rabbi of the Magen David Jewish community of Mexico, who was interviewed by Israel Army Radio, the tweet has “awakened a lot of antisemitism here on the social media networks,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Twitter users posted hateful comments, including, for example, “out Jews,” “burn the Jews,” and Jews are “disgusting,” Tawil said.

Patricia Bialek, a member of the Mexican coast city Puerto Vallarta’s small Jewish community, told the Post that while she personally does not oppose US policy regarding the wall, “no leader of any other country should support a measure that raises a very important humanitarian question for both countries.”

“Netanyahu’s words are very problematic for the Jewish community in Mexico, because they can generate an aggression against the Jewish community in Mexico,” Bialek said. “Mexicans always consider ‘others’ as ‘others.’”

The Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Mexico, the umbrella organization of Jewish communities in Mexico, released a statement rejecting Netanyahu’s statement on Twitter. “We do not agree with his point of view and we strongly reject his position,” the statement read. “As Mexicans and Jews, we support the actions taken by our government, led by President Enrique Peña Nieto, in the negotiations with the US.”

Netanyahu tweet

(Twitter)

Furthermore, apparently with regard to Mexicans who had crossed the border into the US illegally, “We stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens who live, work and contribute to the neighboring country, whose human rights should be respected at all times and who should receive dignified treatment,” the Committee stated.

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Others, however, disagreed with the attack on Netanyahu, the Post reported. Isaac Ajzen, director of the Jewish Mexican Diario Judio website, said that antisemitism exists in Mexico, albeit on a small scale, and that anti-Semites use these controversial incidents as opportunities to vilify the Jewish community.

“They use it like any other opportunity to say things about Jews. There are people who use antisemitism like anti-Israel opinion, or people who use anti-Israel opinion like antisemitism,” he told the Post, adding that some people perceive Mexican Jews as prioritizing Israel over Mexico.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a communiqué that it “expressed to the government of Israel, via its ambassador in Mexico, its profound astonishment, rejection and disappointment over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s message on Twitter about the construction of a border wall.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso said Netanyahu’s tweet felt like an “act of aggression,” and he called upon the Israeli government to be “sensitive enough to correct Netanyahu’s statement.” He also summoned Israel’s Ambassador to Mexico, Jonathan Peled, for a discussion on Monday of the matter.

At a Likud party meeting on Monday, Netanyahu attempted to mitigate the damage, saying, “Who even mentioned Mexico? We had good relations with them and will continue to. Analysts made mountains out of that molehill in the media.”

By: World Israel News Staff