Yishai: I wouldn't let any foreign workers’ kids stay here

Interior Minister tell 'Post' “anyone who says our approach isn’t Jewish, isn’t speaking to the point and is twisting reality.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai defended his position on the deportation of foreign workers families and charged those who opposed the move with hypocrisy The Shas chairman has been on the receiving end of much of the criticism hurled toward the government, by human rights groups, for its decision to deport approximately 400 children of foreign workers and their families while allowing around 800 to remain. The move, which will see those children who don’t meet the government’s criteria leave within a month, has been characterized by some, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as inhumane and un-Jewish.
“Anyone who says our approach isn’t Jewish, isn’t speaking to the point and is twisting reality,” Yishai said.
“We’re not talking about orphans or refugees here; as interior minister, I never refused to authorize [residency for] refugees.
“These kids came with their parents, who either entered or stayed in Israel illegally. Any normal law-abiding country would have decided to deport them. This is a big show with a lot of hypocrisy.”
Yishai said that the real issue was not the children, but their parents.
“Illegal foreign workers use their children as human shields and insurance policies to keep them in the country,” he said.
“I am more sensitive to these children then all the people who speak hypocritically. I even got them a grant to help them with the move and, in the past, when I was labor minister, I passed a bill ensuring they would get their money [paychecks].
“People who say that we should let them all stay want to open the floodgates to tens of thousands of foreign workers.
That’s not Zionist. These people are speaking dibat ha’aretz [slandering the country].
According to Yishai, if those who rejected the deportation got their way, thousands of people would come to Israel as tourists and have children here in order to acquire permanent residency.
“It would get out of control.
Every year there would be a thousand more children,” Yishai said.
For him, the decision to deport the children who fail to meet the government’s criteria sets an important precedent.
When asked if it would not be wise to allow the 400 children to stay and then implement the new policy for future cases, Yishai said that had tried in the past and had failed.
“Former prime ministers [Ariel] Sharon and [Ehud] Olmert both said a ‘bit more and then that’s it.’ There is no end to it. I wouldn’t let any of them stay here, not 800, not even one.”
In the meantime, Interior Ministry staff are busy processing applications submitted by families of foreign workers asking to stay in the country.
Applicants whose children meet the criteria set by the government will receive temporary residency status, which can be renewed every year until the child reaches the age of 18. The children who meet the criteria will be granted permanent residence.
Families have been allowed to submit applications to the Interior Ministry offices around the country since Sunday. So far, 161 applications have been submitted, and eight were refused.
The government approved five criteria that a child must meet to be eligible to stay: The child studied in the Israeli educational system, including kindergarten, during the 2009- 2010 academic year; the child is registered for studies in an Israeli school for the 2010-2011 academic year; the child has resided in Israel for at least five continuous years and – provided he/she was not born in Israel – entered Israel prior to his 13th birthday; the child speaks Hebrew; and the child’s parents entered Israel with a legal visa or permit.