Interior Minister Eli Yishai denied on Sunday reports that he would recommend that the government deport 800 children of foreign workers, as opposed to the 400 recommended by the inter-ministerial committee commissioned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Yishai said that he had yet to even receive the committee’s recommendations and that whoever reported otherwise, was “extracting information out of thin air.”

On Friday the committee, made up of representatives of the ministries of education, welfare, interior, finance and justice, completed nearly a year of deliberations and recommended that the state allow 800 out of 1,200 children born to illegal foreign workers to remain in the country.

According to the committee’s recommendations all children who were born in Israel, have resided in Israel for more than five years, speak Hebrew and are registered in Israeli schools, be granted permanent resident status along with their families.

If the criteria proposed by the committee are approved, it would mean that roughly twothirds of the children will be allowed to stay.

Yishai’s denial followed media reports over that weekend that Yishai planned to reject the panel’s recommendations and offer a more restrictive proposal, under which only those children who were entering first grade in September would be allowed to stay. This would mean only 400 children and their families would be granted permanent status.

In the past, Yishai has been a staunch supporter of deporting the children. Over the last year he has given many interviews in which he made clear that he favored deportation out of concern for the demographic character of the country.

Yishai’s denial didn’t prevent forces that support the children’s remaining from attacking Yishai for his alleged proposal.

In Sunday’s Likud ministers meeting, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, a longtime supporter of the cause, said that “the issue of the children’s status was not the sole prerogative of any single minister, but of the government as a whole.”

Later, in the weekly cabinet meeting, Sa’ar said that it was vital to discuss the committee’s recommendations as soon as possible, as there has been too much stalling and too many rumors circulating.

“The committee’s recommendations are reasonable and balanced. Any deviation from them would cause excessive harm and unjustifiable injury,” said Welfare and Social Services Minister Yitzhak Herzog, another supporting of allowing the children to stay.

“If necessary we will take the issue up before the cabinet.”

A statement issued by child advocacy group Israeli Children called on Yishai to adopt the committee’s recommendations, and even take them a step further and grant permanent status to all 1,200 kids.

“The prime minister established an interministerial committee that seriously deliberated the issue of the fate of migrant workers children. It is unacceptable that Interior Minister Eli Yishai bypass the committee’s authority and make an arbitrary and brutal decision on his own,” said the organization’s director, Rotem Ilan.

The public campaign to have the children remain in Israel has been going on for the last year, ever since Netanyahu had announced a plan to deport the children and their families.

Facing public outcry, Netanyahu in November delayed the decision until the end of the school year, setting up the panel and asking it to come up with its recommendations by then.

In 2006, Israel granted permanent residence to 900 children of foreign workers in what was then believed would be a one-time act. Many of the children who are being considered for permanent status now were too young to be included in the arrangement in 2006.

Yishai will be formally presented with the committee’s recommendations next week, after which he will present them to the cabinet.

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