Aryeh Deri
Aryeh DeriMiriam Alster/Flash 90

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri insisted on Thursday that he had not taken part in drafting the now-suspended agreement between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the United Nations that would have relocated only 16,000 African migrants from Israel.

In an interview with the Reshet Bet radio station, Deri said that the plan was the handiwork of Israel's National Security Council and did not involve the Interior Ministry. "I did not conduct the negotiations with the UN. The negotiations were managed by the National Security Council with the knowledge and consent of the prime minister," Deri said.

The Interior Minister added that Israel is currently examining the option of sending the migrants to a third unnamed country in Africa and warned that the government would legislate a law bypassing the High Court of Justice if it tried to torpedo the plan.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced the deal reached with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which would pave the way for legal status for more than 16,000 illegal male unmarried immigrants from Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia currently living in Israel, in addition to the more than 20,000 who have families and were not slated for deportation to begin with.

In exchange, the UNHCR vowed “work to facilitate the departure” of 16,250 infiltrators to Western countries. Tens of thousands of additional infiltrators, however, would not be affected by the agreement.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu backtracked, suspending the plan following a backlash against the UN compromise deal.

A day later, Netanyahu formally canceled the deal after meeting with Interior Minister Arye Deri (Shas), and community activists from south Tel Aviv, where many of the infiltrators reside.

The Knesset is now planning on enacting a law that would allow the Knesset to overrule certain High Court of Justice decisions regarding legislation, enabling the government to implement its original plan to remove thousands of infiltrators.

Last month, the Supreme Court froze a plan to deport thousands of unmarried male work-seeking infiltrators to two safe African countries, widely reported to be to Uganda and Rwanda, just weeks before the program was slated to begin.

While the Knesset backed the plan last December, which included granting each infiltrator a stipend of several thousand dollars, Israeli opponents of the plan pressured the two countries to back out of the agreement, leading Rwanda to deny its involvement in the plan.