Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin in a telephone conversation Tuesday night that Mexico is “more than willing” to maintain its close ties with Israel – but added that cooperation with the Jewish State “has been hurt” because of a tweet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea ????— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 28, 2017
President Rivlin spoke by telephone with his Mexican counterpart Tuesday evening in a call he said was “extended and warm.”
The president reminded President Pena Nieto that Mexico and Israel have close cooperation in many fields, stressing that the strong ties between the two countries are not just between states, but also between peoples and leaders who hold each other in great esteem.
He thanked President Pena Nieto for attending the funeral of Israel’s ninth President, Shimon Peres, in September 2016, and added that he was looking forward to seeing him in Israel again on his planned state visit during the coming year.
President Rivlin spoke of the close connection between the State of Israel and the Jewish community in Mexico. “This wonderful community plays an important role in Mexican society and economy, and serves as a bridge between our two countries,” he said.
But he did not shy away from addressing the current tiff that had led to Mexico’s anger against the prime minister, although he added that Mr. Netanyahu had not intended his tweet to be so misinterpreted.
“The security situation in Israel, and the entire Middle East, brought us to the important decision to build a fence on our [southern] border,” he said. “We have no intention of comparing the security situation in the State of Israel, and the steps forced upon us, to the situation of any of our friends around the world.” The President stressed, “I am sure that nobody intended to compare between the situation of Israel, and the situation of Mexico – rather this was a misunderstanding,” he underscored.
“The ties between us are so very strong and important, and we must leave behind us any such misunderstanding. We share so much cooperation and I have no doubt that the future will only bring the strengthening of these ties. I am sorry for any hurt caused as a result of this misunderstanding, but we must remember that we are talking about a misunderstanding, and I am sure that we can put the issue behind us.”
President Pena Nieto thanked President Rivlin for his willingness to find a solution to the situation and said, “I want to tell you very clearly Mr. President, that Mexico has always been willing to have a very close relationship with your country.”
But while the Mexican leader was willing to accept the president’s apology, and apparently heard and saw the prime minister’s repeated explanations in the media, he nevertheless was not willing to allow either to heal the rift caused by the tweet. “I do want to tell you that Mexico is more than willing to maintain this mutual cooperation. Unfortunately this cooperation has been hurt because of this tweet,” he said, adding that he was aware of the explanation given for the tweet, but said that its interpretation was inevitable.
“This of course obviously generated various reactions in Mexico, I am certain that you are aware of these reactions.” He added that Mexico had called for a public clarification on the issue. President Pena Nieto stressed, “Mr. President, You can rest assured that Mexico wants to continue being a good friend of Israel.”
As good a friend of Israel that Mexico has been, it did not prevent its United Nations ambassador from abstaining on the UN Security Council resolution denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem — and that abstention came only after great lobbying efforts by Israel, pleading with Mexico not to vote against the Jewish State to further reinforce the measure. As it was, the resolution passed with flying colors; the abstention did nothing to change the resolution that left out any trace of any Jewish link to the holy city, let alone to the Western Wall or the Temple Mount, now renamed “Al Aqsa.”
President Pena Nieto told President Rivlin he hoped their conversation and the clarifications given would help the two countries to continue their important relationship, and said he would convey this message to the Mexican people.
The Mexican people have found plenty of ways to send their own messages to Jews at home, meanwhile.
Mexico’s Chief Rabbi, David Tawil, sent a letter earlier this week to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, blaming Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tweet for having caused great “anti-Semitism against the community and other Jews” in Mexico.
He pleaded with Deri to persuade Mr. Netanyahu to take back his words and instead find a way to agree with the Mexican president about the U.S.-Mexican border wall, which he said was different from that of Israel because it was meant to “prevent illegals seeking work, rather than prevent terrorists.”