Yishai: Migrant Workers Will Bring Diseases to Israel

Interior Minister says he has to chose between 'popularity and hypocrisy' on question of workers' deportation.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Saturday that he still supported the deportation of illegal migrant workers, one day before the government was to decide on whether to deport such workers and their families.

"If hundreds of thousands of migrant workers come here now, they will bring with them a profusion of diseases: hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, AIDS and drug [addiction]," Yishai, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, told the Channel 2 program Meet the Press.

"Will any of Israel's citizens be willing for migrants to enter at this rate?"

Plans to deport the group, which includes 1,200 children, have met with fierce public opposition. Protesters last week called on cabinet ministers to "do what is moral, true and right" and grant the children legal status.

But in the Channel 2 interview, Yishai asked: "With all of this sanctimoniousness, do [the workers] not threaten the Zionist project in the State of Israel?"

The Prime Minister's Office said on Saturday that no decision had yet been made on the matter. The Oz task force, which replaced the Immigration Police, has said it is still operating according to its current guidelines, which prohibit the detention of families with children.

However, a high-ranking government official said Saturday that the deportation of the children was likely to be postponed until after the end of the school year.

Yishai, who is also a deputy prime minister, added: "I need to choose between popularity and hypocrisy: How will I appear to the journalists today, or how will I appear to the State of Israel in 20 years time."