Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed a United States-based human rights organisation for the failure of a deal to deport thousands of African migrants from Israel to Rwanda.
A proposal to deport them to Uganda and Rwanda was dropped earlier this year after it emerged that Israeli prisons lacked the capacity to incarcerate those who refused to leave.
On Tuesday Mr Netanyahu rounded on the New Israel Fund (NIF), a progressive non-profit which supports Israeli human rights and social action initiatives, claiming that it was the “main source that applied European pressure on the Rwandan government to pull out of the agreement to remove the infiltrators from Israel”.
The Prime Minister added that he had ordered a parliamentary investigation into the NIF.
Nr Netanyahu comments came on the day a second deal – to grant asylum to 16,000 migrants, and to resettle an equal number in Canada, Italy and Germany – had fallen through after pressure from the Prime Minister’s right-wing coalition partners.
In a response on Wednesday Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the NIF, accused Mr Netanyahu of “lashing out to deflect attention from his own morally bankrupt choices”.
Mr Sokatch said: “Let's be clear: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacks Israeli democracy and civil society when he attacks NIF.
"This week, for a brief moment, we celebrated a victory for the 37,000 people who are seeking asylum in Israel and who deserve the right to live their lives and raise their families in peace. Then the Prime Minister backtracked, leaving their lives in limbo. And now he's blaming us.
"The New Israel Fund did not pressure the Rwandan government to refuse to participate in Netanyahu's cruel mass deportation plan. We did support massive numbers of Israelis standing up for what is right and demanding action from their own government.
"It’s time for everyone who cares about Israeli democracy to stand up and stand together against this blatant assault on Israeli civil society from an increasingly desperate and flailing PM.”
Meanwhile, US Jewish groups admonished Mr Netanyahu for scrapping the deportation deal, with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) saying there is “no alternative but to find an ethical and humane approach to resettle the tens of thousands of refugees whose lives hang in the balance".
The American Jewish Committee later said: “We are disappointed to see PM Netanyahu announcing a freeze in the just proposed African migrant deal.
"We urge the Prime Minister to move swiftly to implement this plan or a comparable one that will continue to be good for the migrants and the citizens of Israel."
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the US-based Union for Reform Judaism, told Haaretz Mr Netanyahu’s decision was “a complete abdication of leadership”.