Updated April 3 at 10:05 a.m. EST
Benjamin Netanyahu made two major announcements on Monday, completely reversing his administration’s policy on the roughly 40,000 African asylum-seekers in Israel—twice. First, the Israeli prime minister declared that he had scrapped a plan to deport these migrants to third-party countries such as Rwanda or Uganda, instead taking in as many as 16,000 and routing 16,000 more for resettlement in Western countries through the United Nations refugee agency. The decision followed months of massive protests against the proposed forcible removals, which were formally announced earlier this year, and a court ruling that had temporarily halted the deportation plan.
But then, hours later, Netanyahu appeared to renege, despite having apparently signed an international agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. On Facebook, he wrote that Rwanda had “folded” from its previous agreement to take in refugees due to pressure from the European Union and a liberal American advocacy group, the New Israel Fund. This was why he had made the new agreement, he wrote. “However, I am attentive to you, and first to the people of South Tel Aviv,” he said, referring to the neighborhood where most of the African migrants are concentrated. “That’s why I decided to meet with the Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, with the representatives of [South Tel Aviv] tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I’m suspending the implementation of the agreement.” On Tuesday in Israel, he announced that he would be permanently cancelling the agreement, which his government had called “unprecedented” just one day ago.