PM's wife, Yishai talk foreign children

Immigration policies won't change despite "wonderful" meeting.

By RON FRIEDMAN
August 20, 2010 03:35
2 minute read.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai and prime minister's wife Sarah Netanyahu meet at the interior ministry

yishai sarah netanyahu. (photo credit: courtesy)

Sara Netanyahu met for an hour with Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Thursday, to discuss her positions on the deportation of foreign workers’ families in the country illegally.

After the meeting, which was held in Yishai’s office in the capital, Yishai announced that although he respected Netanyahu and listened carefully to her suggestions, the country’s immigration policies would not change.

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Last week, the prime minister’s wife sent the interior minister a letter pleading with him to come up with a solution that would enable 400 children of foreign workers, along with their families, to remain in Israel despite their failing to meet government approved criteria.

Following the meeting, Yishai’s office released the following statement on his behalf: “I have known Mrs. Netanyahu for years and appreciate her public involvement in various humanitarian issues and especially child-related issues, which is close to her heart and her professional practice as a psychologist.

However, Israel’s immigration policies and government decisions will not be altered – they are meant to maintain the character of the state.”

The Prime Minister’s Office reported that during the meeting, Netanyahu raised several suggestions and that the two would meet again after the suggestions were discussed on the professional level by ministry officials.

“I had a wonderful meeting with Minister Yishai. I greatly appreciate the deep concern he has for the Jewish and democratic character and the future of the state, and his humanity and openness to talk to me and examine additional ideas regarding the children,” Sara Netanyahu said in a statement.



Netanyahu’s involvement in the issue has been met with mixed responses by human rights organizations.

While many appreciate her willingness to speak out in favor of the children, in private conversations, some criticize her move as being too little too late.

Hundreds of foreign workers families have visited Interior Ministry offices across the country over the past two weeks, to submit applications for permanent residence status on behalf of their children. It is estimated that 800 out of 1,200 children meet the government’s criteria for who gets to stay indefinitely, criteria that have to do mostly with length of habitation in Israel, knowledge of the Hebrew language and registration in the Israeli education system.

On Thursday, 18 children from a local Scouts branch, a branch that has both Israeli and foreign members, accompanied applying families to the Interior Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, in an effort to prove to the officials there that the children were fully integrated into Israeli society.

Yifat Taharani, the branch leader, told Yediot Aharonot: “When the children come wearing Scouts uniforms, it makes it even clearer that even though their eyes may be more slanted and their skin tone is darker, they are just like our own children.”


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