By Middle East Affairs
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the fence between Israel and Egypt has protected the Jewish state from something he considers even worse than attacks — African migrants, AFP reports.
“Were it not for the fence, we would be faced with … severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse, a flood of illegal migrants from Africa,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as telling a development conference in Dimona, a the southern Israel town.
There are about 42,000 African migrants in Israel, according to the interior ministry, and the government said thousands must leave or face imprisonment, AFP said.
The migrants began entering into Israel illegally in 2007 through the border with Egypt’s “lawless Sinai region,” as the news agency referred to it. In response, a 200-kilometer fence was installed and the migration stopped.
“We are talking about a Jewish and democratic state, but how could we assure a Jewish and democratic state with 50,000 and then 100,000 and 150,000 migrants a year,” Netanyahu said at the conference.
“After a million, 1.5 million, we might as well shut up shop,” he’s quoted as saying by AFP. “We did not close down, we built a fence.”
Sinai is now a battleground between the Egyptian army and the Islamic State. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has given the army a three-month deadline to crush Daesh in the Sinai.
Sissi made this demand in November, AFP says, after suspected Islamic State gunmen killed more than 300 people at a Sinai mosque. In response, the army began its campaign Feb. 9.