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Palestinian MK: Trump and Netanyahu “separated at birth”

Jan. 28, 2017 9:09 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2017 11:29 P.M.)
Palestinians in Bethlehem protest Donald Trump being sworn into office as US president
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, Ahmad Tibi, said in a Tweet on Saturday that United States President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were “separated at birth," in response to a Tweet earlier in the evening by Netanyahu calling Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico “a great idea.”

In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, the newly instated US president argued that building a wall was “necessary” and “good for the heart of the nation,” saying: “All you have to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across, and they had a wall. It's 99.9 percent stoppage."

It is not immediately clear which “wall” the US president was referring to, as Israel has built fences along its borders with Egypt, Lebanon, the besieged Gaza Strip, and perhaps most infamously the illegal separation wall encircling parts the occupied West Bank.

Trump intends to expand the US's existing border fences with Mexico in order to prevent immigrants from entering the country, who Trump claims represent a security threat to northern Americans.

However, according to analysis of the 2010 census and the American Communities Survey done by the non-profit American Immigration Council, immigrants to the United States are significantly less likely than native-born citizens to be incarcerated. The authors found that 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.

The Israeli prime minister welcomed Trump’s comparison, saying Israel’s recently built fence along the Egyptian border had been a “great success” in keeping out migrants, who mainly came from African nations.

Since Israel built the Egyptian border fence in 2012, the Israeli government has detained thousands of migrants in the Holot detention facility near to a prison on the Egyptian border.

Israel has also been a target of international condemnation for the construction and continued expansion of the West Bank separation wall, which the International Court of Justice declared illegal in 2004.

While Israel maintains that the wall is necessary for the security of Israeli citizens, Palestinians and rights groups have instead pointed out that the wall consumes large tracts of Palestinian land, as 85 percent of the constructed wall has been built inside occupied Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu also vowed to crack down on undocumented workers in Israel, amid a wave of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory that began in October 2015, claiming that “a large proportion of (Palestinian) attackers were present in Israel illegally or infiltrated into Israel illegally.” However, few Palestinians attackers were in fact workers in Israel, and the recent crackdown was condemned by rights groups as a political game, unlikely to affect the violence, yet economically harmful to both Palestinians and Israelis.

Responding to Trump’s comments to Fox News, Palestinian activist Mazin Qumsiyeh argued that Israel’s separation wall “cannot be a security issue,” noting that Palestinians and Israelis reside on both sides of it -- referring to the some 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian, as well as to Israeli settlers residing in the occupied West Bank in contravention of international law.

"The Israeli wall was slated to cost $2.5 billion and be finished in three years and here we are 14 years later and it cost $8 billion and is not even finished yet! Imagine the US wall (expected to cost $15-20 billion but will cost 3-4 times more),” Qumsiyeh wrote.

Trump on Friday also signed an executive order banning entry to the US for all nationals from seven Muslim countries -- Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen -- and ordered families fleeing war-torn Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States.

He also ordered that Christians refugees and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslim refugees.

Trump and Netanyahu spoke earlier this week when they shared a “very warm” phone call, and Netanyahu is planning to visit Trump in the White House next month.

The Israeli government openly expressed its anticipation for a Trump presidency as right-wing politicians believe they will more easily advance plans to expand Israeli settlements and consolidate Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank, since Trump has come forward as a vocal supporter Israel and its illegal settlements.
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