Interior Minister Eli Yishai defended his decision to deport foreign workers and their children, saying that only a fraction of illegal residents of Israel are effected by his decision, Walla reported on Tuesday.

"There are 20,000 children living illegally in Israel today, not just 400," Yishai said. "Hundreds of children who should be deported are from Tel Aviv, and we've only been talking about them because they go to school."

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In an interview with Army Radio, Yishai said "they hide, because they know that Israelis will defend them, but we have their names."

He added that the decision to deport them came from a committee of professionals. "I wouldn't leave even one family here. We're not deporting children; rather, we're returning them, with their parents, to the countries they come from."

When the interviewer pointed out that many of these children were born in Israel, and do not know any other country, Yishai retorted: "We didn't know the language when we made aliyah. We didn't know the culture. That's what will happen with them, too."

The interior minister also called the protesters "hypocritical. I am more merciful than those that are crying in the media; I am keeping a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. If we don't wake up, in 20 years our children will grow up in a country with a non-Jewish minority. We can't always think about what the world will say."

Yishai also said that, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak requested another cabinet meeting to discuss the move, "we will act according to schedule," that is, to deport the children in October.

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