Netanyahu: Israel ties with Mexico ‘stronger than any passing misunderstanding’

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would “explain and clarify” a tweet seen as supporting President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall at the Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants.

The tweet has caused a diplomatic uproar between Israel and Mexico since it was posted Saturday.

“I take this opportunity to explain or clarify what I did and did not say in my tweet the other night. I thought you’d be interested in that,” Netanyahu said Tuesday morning in an address to the CyberTech conference in Tel Aviv, in remarks that were distributed to reporters by his office.

“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,” he said.

Nieto and Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, were scheduled to talk by telephone on Tuesday to resolve the diplomatic storm brewing between the two countries.

The conversation comes after Mexico summoned Israel’s ambassador for a meeting with its foreign minister on Monday night.

Earlier Monday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray called on Netanyahu to apologize for the tweet, Haaretz reported.

“We hope that the Israeli government will have the sensitivity to correct Netanyahu’s statement,” said Videgaray before his meeting with the Israeli diplomat Monday evening.

The summons, which the Foreign Ministry of Israel on Monday called an invitation, came  a day after Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Foreign Ministry 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. Mexico is a friend of Israel and should be treated as such by its Prime Minister.”

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.”