Eli Yishai to Foreign Workers: Stop Using Children as Human Shields

Special Knesset session held to discuss issue of granting permanent residency to children of foreign workers turns into stormy debate as MKs hurl charges of racism.

Stop using your children as human shields, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Monday during a special Knesset session held to discuss the issue of granting permanent residency to children of foreign workers.

Israeli cabinet ministers adopted the recommendation made by an inter-ministerial committee last month to grant legal status to some 800 children of migrant workers and deport another 400 others within 21 days, a ruling that has caused much controversy as of late.

The children of foreign workers
Alon Ron

"I support telling the parents, with no exception, don't use your children as human shields. They are not insurance policies," Yishai said.

Yishai was called a racist by other Knesset members, many of whom came forward in support of granting the children permanent residency status.

"Stop with the hypocrisy. The foreigners came to Israel, some of them illegally, and gave birth to illegal children here," Yishai said.

Yishai accused the media and ministers of creating a public atmosphere that is hostile to the recommendations made by the inter-ministerial committee.

"A committee was established by representatives from different offices. They decided not to expel anyone, but to return them to their countries," Yishai said. "Everyone knows that the parents are using their children. If they were to tell their children 'the trip is over, we are now going back to our country wealthy to grandma and grandpa,' would the children cry? No one can tell me otherwise."

Meretz chairman Haim Oron said he couldn't understand why a decision wasn't made "to keep 1,200 children in Israel, saying: "We thought we were bringing slaves, but it turned out we brought human beings."

"People who live here year after year also have babies," Oron said, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he "was balancing humanism and Zionism, but is in fact looking the other way from reality."

MK Michael Ben-Ari, of the right-wing National Union party, called out to Oron in response: "you are all racists. Where were you when Jews were expelled from their homes," referring to Israel's 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.