Interior Minister Eli Yishai issued a harsh response to his detractors on Monday, accusing them of exploiting foreigners who are in Israel illegally for their own purposes. “There is an attempt to portray these organizations as helping [foreigners], when in reality they exploit them,” he said.
Yishai was responding to groups critical of his efforts to deport illegal entrants to Israel and those who have overstayed their work visas.
On Monday members of one such group, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, accused Yishai and former minister Shlomo Benizri of approving the entrance of more foreign workers than ever before to Israel, in order to make a profit. The organization accused Benizri of “greed” and of taking bribes, saying he and Yishai deported foreigners in order to bring in new workers, who pay a fee to employment agencies before entering the country. Benizri is serving a four-year prison sentence on a conviction of accepting bribes from one of those agencies.
Yishai derided the accusation as a blatant lie. “The attempt to fool the public and say Shas is responsible for increasing the number of foreigners [in Israel] is a lie... This campaign of falsehood will not confuse the people of Israel or distract them from the damage that these organizations are causing.”
The number of foreign workers allowed in during his term as Interior Minister was not for him to decide, Yishai said. “Decisions regarding entrance permits for foreign workers are government decisions, which I opposed, and are not the decision of any one government ministry,” he explained.