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6 Feb, 2018 08:31

Netanyahu vs Soros: Billionaire accused of trying to thwart Israel's migrant-deportation plan

Netanyahu vs Soros: Billionaire accused of trying to thwart Israel's migrant-deportation plan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that billionaire George Soros is funding efforts to oppose the country's plan to deport thousands of African migrants – an accusation that the philanthropist denies.

Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Sunday that Soros, who is known for his deep-pocketed philanthropy and political contributions towards “progressive” causes, is bankrolling a campaign to undermine Israel’s plan to deport thousands of African migrants.

"George Soros is also funding the protests. Obama deported two million infiltrators and they didn't say anything,” Netanyahu told the ministers, according to Haaretz.

A spokesman for the billionaire pushed back against Netanyahu’s claim, telling Haaretz that while Soros is not funding protests in the country, he nonetheless "adamantly believes that, in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention and international law, it is wrong to forcibly send asylum seekers back to countries where they might be persecuted or killed."

Last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ran a billboard campaign aimed at Soros, accusing him of using "his wealth, power, influence and a network of non-governmental organizations" to flood the European Union and Hungary with migrants. At the time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry called for the end of the campaign, citing “perceived anti-Semitism.”

READ MORE: Deportation or jail: Israel gives African migrants 60-day deadline to leave country

Israel has started issuing deportation orders to African migrants, giving them 60 days to leave the country or face jail time. Israel is currently home to approximately 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers, most of them Eritrean and Sudanese. Since 2007, some 60,000 migrants have entered the country through its desert border with Egypt. Israel constructed a 245km fence on the frontier in 2013 in an attempt to curb the inflow.

Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, is not alone in his opposition to the Israeli policy. At the end of January, more than 800 rabbis and other Jewish clergy in the US signed a letter calling on Israel to reverse its plan to deport African migrants, arguing the asylum seekers are “escaping torture, enslavement, and war.”