Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday defended the expulsion of 400 children of foreign workers, saying that “the children need to be told that their field trip has ended.”

“Is one of them going to stand up and cry?” he asked.

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Yishai repeated his oftheard stance on the subject in a Knesset debate initiated by Meretz MKs to discuss the recent government decision to deport an estimated onethird of the children born to foreign workers in Israel.

“They have grandparents who want to see them,” he argued.

“Those who violated the law are treated in a respectful manner. They even receive funding to leave,” Yishai continued, adding that the children’s parents should acknowledge that they had come to Israel to make money, had in fact made money, and were returning to their families and countries much wealthier than they had eft.

“Whether or not the person was born here, whether or not he speaks Hebrew, whether or not he raises the flag every day or wants to serve – these criteria mean nothing to me,” he said.

Yishai, who supported a plan to deport all of the children born to foreign workers in Israel – as opposed to the current, more limited plan – reiterated his argument that the plan did not target the children themselves, but their parents, who “see the children as a way to automatically be allowed to stay in Israel.”

Intense verbal sparring erupted between MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and Yishai, with Yishai telling Gilon to “shut up” and Gilon calling Yishai a “racist primitive” and alleging that foreign workers’ children participated in the army more than Yishai’s children. Amid threats by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to have Gilon expelled from the hearing for his repeated disturbances, Gilon left on his own, only to return minutes later.

While the two yelled back and forth, two daughters of Filipino foreign workers sat in the visitors’ gallery, pigtails bobbing as they drew pictures and listened to the handful of MKs debating their fates.

The government decision issued last week determined that an estimated 400 children of foreign workers would be expelled; 800 children and their families were granted the right to stay in Israel once they show that they fulfill the criteria established by the cabinet.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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