Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was caught on a hot mic earlier this week calling upon Eastern European leaders to adopt tougher immigration policies to keep their nations secure, according to a report by the Times of Israel.
Netanyahu stated that he believes in the free movement of goods, “but not people”.
“Secure your borders. Secure your borders,” he said, repeating for emphasis.
The Israeli leader stressed the effectiveness of border walls, noting that his nation had “blocked the border not only in Egypt but in the Golan Heights.”
Netanyahu was addressing the Visegrad Group, an alliance which constitutes Poland’s Beata Szydlo, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Slovakia’s Robert Fico and the Czech Republic’s Bohuslav Sobotka. All four of these national leaders have clashed with the European Union (EU) over the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. The EU has accused them of failing to meet the migrant quotas expected of EU member states. Orban and Szydlo are affiliated with immigration-critical nationalist parties in their home countries, while Fico, a socialist ideologically, includes nationalists within his governing coalition. Sobotka, a center-right politician who is typically liberal on immigration, has adopted a tougher stance in response to poor poll numbers.
Netanyahu began his statement by talking about the need for closer ties between Europe and Israel, complaining about his difficulties with meeting preconditions set by the EU for closer bilateral ties, and juxtaposing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic approach to Israel with that of the EU.
Orban then changed the topic to immigration, stating, “Mr Netanyahu, the European Union is even more unique. The EU places conditions on the ones already inside the EU, not only the countries on the outside,” referring to the migrant quotas.
Netanyahu replied, “I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear. I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth — both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future.”
After the meeting, Orban told reporters that the four leaders “share Israel’s notion of protecting external borders.”
These remarks by Netanyahu are only the latest in a diplomatic offensive by Israel aimed at taking advantage of the recent global shift towards nationalism and strong borders. Just last week, his foreign ministry released a statement backing Hungary’s campaign against George Soros, a Jewish business magnate best known for his support for liberal and open borders causes across the world. In January, Netanyahu also backed President Donald Trump on the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, tweeting: “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”