After facing criticism from some of his ministers over a deal with the UN to deport African asylum seekers while keeping thousands in Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday suspended the deal just hours after announcing it in a press conference.

Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

Just hours after announcing it on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to suspend a deal with the UN that would have deported more than 16,000 African asylum seekers while keeping thousands in Israel, following backlash from government officials.

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu accused left-wing groups of foiling his original plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. “Over the past weeks, under tremendous pressure from the New Israel Fund and sources in the European Union, Rwanda backed out of the agreement and refused to accept infiltrators from Israel who were forced to leave,” Netanyahu wrote.

“When that happened, I decided to push forward a new agreement that would enable the deportation,” he continued. “Having said that, I am attentive to you, and first and foremost to the residents of south Tel Aviv.”

Earlier 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.

Shortly after the announcement of the deal, several members of Netanyahu’s government voiced sharp criticism of it. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the religious Zionist HaBayit Hayehudi party, said the deal would turn Israel into “a heaven for infiltrators.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev of Netanyahu’s own Likud party, an outspoken campaigner for the deportation of asylum seekers, said she was concerned over what she described as “giving up on the basic principles of the government’s policy on immigration.”