Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was cancelling an agreement with the UN refugee agency on resettling thousands of African migrants after facing mounting pressure from his right-wing base.
Netanyahu had himself announced the agreement in a televised address on Monday afternoon, drawing immediate anger from right-wing politicians, including allies, and many of his traditional supporters.
He said in a late-night Facebook post on Monday he was suspending the agreement that would have allowed thousands of the migrants to remain in Israel at least temporarily.
On Tuesday, he said the deal was being cancelled after having held discussions on it.
“After having heard numerous comments on the agreement, I have examined the pros and cons and have decided to cancel the agreement,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The agreement was designed to end the possibility of forced deportations of thousands of migrants to Rwanda under a controversial plan put forward by Netanyahu in January.
Under the agreement with the UN, a minimum of 16,250 migrants would have instead been resettled in Western nations.
In return, Israel would grant temporary residency to one migrant for each one resettled elsewhere.
The presence of the primarily Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in Israel has become a key political issue.
Netanyahu is already under heavy political pressure due to a string of graft probes.