In the face of sharp criticism from some of his most prominent coalition partners, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has officially announced the cancellation of a deal with the UN that would have deported over 16,000 African asylum seekers to Western countries.

Netanyahu, Gabbay

Netanyahu, Gabbay Photo credit: GPO/Yonatan Sindel, Flash 90

Less than 24 hours after presenting a deal with the UN on the partial deportation of African asylum seekers from Israel, which led to backlash from several of his fellow coalition members, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday the deal is officially cancelled.

“After re-evaluating the pros and cons, I have decided to cancel the agreement,” Netanyahu told south Tel Aviv residents. “Every year I make thousands of decisions that benefit the State of Israel and its citizens. Once in a while, a decision that has been made needs to be reconsidered.”

“Despite all the legal restrictions and the international hardships that are piling up, we will continue to act determinedly to look over all of our options to deport the infiltrators,” he added.

William Spindler, a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency, said he learned of Netanyahu’s reversal of policy from the media and urged Israel to “reconsider its decision soon.” “We continue to believe in the need for a win-win agreement that can benefit Israel, the international community and people needing asylum,” Spindler told AFP.

Avi Gabbay, the chairman of the Israeli Labor party and one of Netanyahu’s strongest opponents, called the cancellation of the deal an “absurd” decision that would “make things complicated for Israel.” He accused Netanyahu of demonstrating “lack of leadership and cowardice” and “escaping responsibility.”

“Israel needs a prime minister with the ability to make decisions and to study complex issues thoroughly, and above all – the ability to take action,” Gabbay said in a Facebook post.

Netanyahu announcing the deal with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Monday

Netanyahu announcing the deal with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Monday Photo credit: Hillel Meir, TPS

On Monday, Netanyahu presented the deal in a joint press conference with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, calling it is the best possible solution at this time. “I realize the expectation was for us to deport all of them, but once we knew that wasn’t an option, we did the best thing we could do,” he said.