Barak Appeals to PM: Don't Deport Migrant Workers' Children

Defense minister suggests that cabinet decision to deport children be deferred, and that deportations only be applied in future cases.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday seeking to reverse the decision to deport 400 children of migrant workers.

Children of migrant workers in Tel Aviv

The defense minister suggested that the cabinet decision to deport 400 of 1,200 children in question be deferred and only implemented in future cases.

"The State of Israel mustn't deport hundreds of children. It is not Jewish, not humane and will scar the entire Israeli society," Barak said. "I plan to propose that the prime minister adopt the recommendations of a panel on the status of migrant workers' children in Israel only in regard to future cases of migrant workers, and allow all 1,200 children to remain in Israel."

The cabinet decision dictates the deportation of children except those of migrant workers who have been in Israel for more than five years, and are either entering first grade or a higher school grade. The children who are allowed to stay must also speak Hebrew, and if they were not born in Israel, they must have arrived in Israel before the age of 13.

The agreement applies only to children whose parents entered Israel legally.
Those children who do not meet the criteria will be asked to leave the county within a month.

More than 1,200 children were up for deportation earlier this year, of which 800 children met the criteria and will be granted approval to remain in Israel.

Barak's plea to hold another cabinet discussion on the matter was accepted, thanks to a letter penned by Deputy Trade Minister Orit Noked. Noked wrote that she believed that Barak could enlist a majority of ministers to vote against the decision to deport the 400 children, and recommended to Barak that he call for another cabinet meeting on the issue.

"The result of the vote, and the way the votes were distributed around the table, enables the reversal of the decision in order to allow the children of migrant workers slated for deportation to remain," she wrote to Barak.

"Thus, if another vote is held and the cabinet ministers vote as one, with the addition of your [Barak] vote, which wasn't counted in the last vote, we can recruit more ministers to bring about the reversal," she explained in the letter.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog responded to criticism against him for abstaining from the vote Sunday when the decision was taken. Herzog said that he should have supported the decision and voted in favor instead of abstaining.

"The decision taken on Sunday seems reasonable to me at this time," Herzog said. "In a post-mortem analysis I feel that it would have been wise for me to abandon my reservations regarding the decision and support the suggested solution. I am aware of the criticism that my abstaining drew, and I can understand it."

The welfare minister added that "Israel is no different than other democracies that have a problem with labor immigration and find solutions other than deportation."

The decision was taken Sunday with a majority of 12 ministers in favor, 10 ministers against and 4 abstaining.

Before the vote, a heated debate erupted between Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who opposed granting further rights to the children, and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Herzog, who demanded deeper concessions.

Netanyahu spoke to Yishai after the meeting, and his associates spoke to Lieberman. It was decided that individual cases could be presented to a special committee that could make exceptions.