Yishai: Barak using kids for ratings

Labor leader tries to have cabinet re-vote on foreign workers’ kids.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A push by Labor chairman Ehud Barak to initiate another cabinet debate on the fate of foreign workers’ children erupted on Wednesday into a war of words with Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas.
Barak was in Washington when the cabinet voted on the issue last month. A decision to deport approximately 400 foreign workers’ children and their families while allowing around 800 children and their families to remain indefinitely passed by a thin margin at the meeting.
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“The decision to grant residency to 800 foreign workers children was proper and justified, but the decision to expel the remaining 400 was scandalous,” Barak said in a press release. “The sight of police raiding the homes of the workers and forcibly removing children, of jail cells full of families, and of Interior Ministry inspectors forcing Hebrew-speaking children onto planes would cause irrevocable damage to all of us, both domestically and abroad.”
The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement denying that the issue was on the cabinet’s agenda. But Barak’s associates said the Labor leader was pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to add it to the agenda.
Yishai, who pushed for the deportation of all 1,200 children, responded by accusing Barak of trying to “cynically exploit the children for ratings.”
He said the cabinet decision was the result of in-depth work by an interministerial committee that cannot be rendered meaningless by Barak, who he said was acting as if he heard about the cabinet decision today for the first time.
In his statement, Barak rejected Yishai’s argument that the 400 children and others like them constituted a demographic threat. He called for drafting new, firm and clear guidelines for foreign workers and their families.
“In the history of this country, the authorities here have never forcibly expelled Hebrew-speaking children just because their parents sinned by living here against the law,” Barak said.
National Union MK Arye Eldad responded that Israel did indeed forcibly expel children from their homes when it evacuated the Gaza Strip five years ago.
“They didn’t expel the children of Gush Katif because parents sinned, but because they were Jews,” Eldad said. “In that case, it was the Knesset and the government that sinned.”