Knesset speakers stormily debated on Monday the recent government decision to allow 800 children of illegal foreign workers to remain in Israel and deport 400 others.
The decision states that the children who are already in school and who essentially grew up in Israel should remain, while the others must leave. Israel has become a favored destination for job-seekers from Thailand, Nigeria, Eritrea, the Philippines and elsewhere. Entire neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and vicinity, as well as in Eilat and Arad, are populated by foreign workers, threatening the Jewish character of the country.
Public Outcry, or Media Outcry?
The issue has become a favorite for several national broadcasters and media personalities, who have termed it a “scandal,” “crisis,” and the like. However, it is not clear that the public at large agrees with these categorizations, and it has been suggested that the “public outcry” against the deportations is merely a “media outcry.”
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) responded in the Knesset today to a query on the issue, and said, “A wave of hypocrisy is overtaking us, and the time has come to take off this mask of and present the facts, one by one. Do you [left-wing MKs] think that you are more compassionate than I am? The parents are using the children as a shield and as an insurance policy against deportation; it's all one big show.”
Time to Say: "Our Trip is Over, Time to Go Home"
“The parents in question came to Israel illegally," Minister Yishai continued, "and some of those who came here legally remained here illegally. We are not expelling these children; they have to return to their countries and to their grandparents... Everyone understands that the parents are using their children. It’s time for them to tell their children: Our trip is over, we made a few thousand dollars and now we have to go back home. No child will end up crying.”
Yishai said that he met last year with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “I asked him to help prevent the infiltrations into Israel,” Yishai said, “and he told me, ‘How can we stop them, when you give them work permits?’”
Double Standards in the Knesset
MK Ilan Gil’on of the left-wing Meretz party interfered and catcalled during Yishai’s speech, calling him a “primitive racist,” and MK Michael Ben-Ari similarly interrupted when Meretz MK Chaim Oron spoke. “Why did you not protest when thousands of Jews were thrown out of their homes in Gush Katif? You care only for foreigners!” Ben-Ari called out.
However, Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin took a different approach with each. He threw Ben-Ari out of the plenum for his words, but did not stop Gil’on when he interrupted. Minister Yishai, in fact, asked Rivlin straight out to explain his partial behavior. After Ben-Ari returned to the plenum and continued interrupting, Rivlin threw him out again, with instructions that he not allowed to be return the rest of the day.
The government decision is that foreign workers’ children who are in Grades 1-12, whose parents entered Israel legally and were here for at least five consecutive years, will not be deported.