Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, 10 August 2010. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday he would call for a renewed discussion during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday of the decision to deport 400 children of migrant workers, as the deportation would create "irreversible damage."

"The decision to grant 800 children of migrant workers legal status is just and worthy, but the decision to arrest and deport 400 children from Israel is arbitrary," Barak said.

"The sight of police officers raiding migrant workers' homes and forcing the children out, the sight of guards holding families in detention camps and the sight of interior ministry inspectors escorting Hebrew-speaking children on to planes, will cause us all irreversible damage, both from within and abroad," he added.

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.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai responded to Barak's comments saying they were a cynical use of the children of migrant workers. 

"The cabinet made a decision after a profound discussion and after the extensive work of the inteministerial committee," said Yishai. "Therefore, it is unfitting to render the government's work pointless.

"It is strange that he who knowingly ignored the issue of migrant workers now chooses to act as if he heard about it today for the first time," Yishai added.

Barak was absent from the last meeting on the topic, during which the ministers voted to approve the mass deportation, due to a trip to Washington.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's associates said that it is unlikely that the cabinet would hold a second discussion on the issue, yet a final decision is expected to be made on Thursday.

Barak appealed to Netanyahu earlier this month seeking to reverse the decision to deport the 400 children.