Over the past week, the world has been watching the migrant crisis unfold and world leaders are handling the situation in different ways. The pope, for example, has welcomed two refugee families into the Vatican’s parishes as a sign of leadership for the rest of the world. But some, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been wary of admitting refugees from countries like Syria.
Netanyahu says that if Israel allows people fleeing Syria’s civil war to enter within its borders, terrorist threats could come with them. “Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “But Israel is a small country, a very small country, that lacks demographic and geographic depth; therefore, we must control our borders, against both illegal migrants and terrorism.”
In fact, Netanyahu discussed the initial construction of a border-securing fence to partition Jordan and Israel.
Netanyahu’s position has some opposition at home. Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Union in Israel, has called for receiving immigrants in the country, telling a panel in Tel Aviv that “I call on the government of Israel to act toward receiving refugees from the war in Syria.”
Right-wingers worried that this would afford Palestinian refugees a “right-of-return” into Israel. To complicate matters further, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas urged the United Nations to let Palestinians from Syrian refugee camps take shelter in the West Bank. Israel has already received flak for not granting asylum status to thousands of refugees from African nations, including several thousand that remain in a holding facility in the Negev desert.
Many of the more than 50,000 African refugees who have entered Israel since 2006 have been repatriated to other African countries. With the world’s focus firmly fixed on the current migrant crisis, Netanyahu may be under more pressure than ever to change his tune.