This paper provides an analysis of the recent changes the Israeli position has marked towards the issue of African refugees. These changes were initiated by a government decision, stating that all refugees would be expelled to a third African state (Rwanda). Any refugee who refused
expulsion would be sent to jail. Later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri announced they had reached an understanding with the UN Refugee Agency, but the agreement was called off. Finally, the former plan, according to which refugees would be expelled to a third African state, namely Uganda, was reintroduced.
The paper is premised on the claim that there is a close relation between Netanyahu’s hesitation and decline, potential for early general elections, and fear for losing right wing grassroots, which support Netanyahu and believe that expulsion is the optimal solution for the African refugee problem.
It can be argued that the right wing’s commitment and support to the Likud and Netanyahu have not been affected in spite of the corruption cases initiated against Netanyahu and the police recommendation to file charging instruments in two cases. In the aftermath of these events, both Netanyahu and the Likud party have been more popular. On the other hand, Netanyahu realised that the issue of African refugees could be personally detrimental. His right wing constituencies may support him in the corruption cases. The right wing views these charges as political persecution against Netanyahu and right wing rule. It also sees corruption cases as part of the conflict between the new and old elites. However, the right wing will not forgive Netanyahu for retracting many issues, including expulsion of African refugees from Israel.
Netanyahu attempts to alleviate the damage he caused to himself after he had adopted a plan to resolve the problem, but immediately and dramatically declined it overnight. Netanyahu followed his tradition of inciting hatred against civil society organisations , which support the rights of African refugees. He claimed that the New Israel Fund thwarted the expulsion plan. On the other hand, Netanyahu seeks to adopt a radical bill, preventing the High Court from repealing laws enacted by the Knesset. Hence, Netanyahu joins forces with the far right wing movement within the Likud party in an attempt to reverse the damages over the past week. At the same time, Netanyahu realises that Moshe Kahlon, leader of Kulanu party, will not admit the radical bill, which Netanyahu wants. If the latter insists to enact the bill, it means that the government will fall. Will Netanyahu back off and appear as a hesitant leader once more? Will he proceed with it all the way through, which means an enhanced likelihood for another early elections?