* Netanyahu had pointed to desert barrier as model for U.S.
* Trump’s Mexico wall plan challenged by question of funds
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM, June 12 (Reuters) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen inspected Israel’s fenced-off border with Egypt on Tuesday for ideas for the U.S. border with Mexico, where President Donald Trump has pledged to build a wall, Israel Radio reported.
Trump has said the United States needs a wall along its 3,200 km (2,000 mile) southern border to prevent illegal immigrants entering from Mexico and that country should pay for the project. Mexico has rejected that idea and the funding dispute has fueled U.S. domestic dissent.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angered Mexico last year by publicly backing Trump’s call and pointing to the towering, sensor-rigged Egyptian border fence as a possible model. Trump, in turn, has admired Israel’s barrier.
A U.S. official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity confirmed Nielsen’s visit to the Israel-Egypt border.
“She understood the challenges and opportunities that exist there,” the official said, without elaborating.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security declined comment. In a June 8 statement, it had said that while traveling in Israel this week she would “receive an operational briefing on Israeli border infrastructure technology and systems”.
The razor wire-lined Israeli fence, which is between 5 metres and 8 metres (15 feet and 24 feet) in height, was erected over three years along the 230 km (143-mile) frontier with Egypt’s Sinai desert. It cost Israel around $380 million.
Israel credits the fence with stemming an influx of African migrants and infiltration by Islamic State-linked militants.
In March, Trump signed a federal spending bill from Congress that contained $1.6 billion to pay for six months of work on his wall. He had asked for $25 billion for it. (Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)