Yishai Seeks to Deport Bulk of Migrants' Kids

Interior Minister Eli Yishai is trying to sideline the findings of a professional committee appointed to propose rules for granting legal status to migrants' children, Haaretz has learned. The minister apparently wants to minimize the number of children and parents who would receive legal status in Israel.

Yishai is trying to alter the committee's recommendations so that only one-third of the migrant children and parents currently in Israel receive official status - children who have been in Israel for more than five years, and who are about to start elementary school, sources said.

He is planning to propose this to other ministers, and if he garners their support, the plan will be put to a cabinet vote. If Yishai fails to win his colleagues' support, the matter will be arbitrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which case the committee's recommendations would bear less weight.

The committee, which included representatives from the finance, social affairs, education, justice and interior ministries, completed its work last week, producing criteria for granting residency to migrants' children.

The committee suggested the interior minister offer residency to candidates meeting several criteria, including children studying in the Israeli education system or registered for the next school year, or children who finished high school in the last school year and have resided in Israel for five years consecutively.

The child would also need to speak Hebrew, and his parents would need to have entered Israel legally as migrant workers, tourists or volunteers before the child was born. Families whose children do not meet these criteria will have to leave Israel within 30 days.

Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said in response, "Any divergence from the report will cause serious injustice that cannot be justified."

"If needed, we'll demand a cabinet discussion, and if necessary, I will present the committee's findings to the cabinet myself. The professional committee's opinion sees the well-being of the child as a supreme value and it must be upheld," said Herzog.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said he intends to bring the matter up during today's meeting of Likud ministers, led by the prime minister himself. "This issue is going to be decided by the government," Saar said. "The committee's intent to grant residency to most migrant workers' children, who are as Israeli as anyone, is the right thing to do."

Yishai is expected to receive the committee's recommendations formally early this week. He can then submit them to the government for approval, or propose a resolution of his own. If he does not bring the committee's conclusions to the cabinet, however, other ministers can do so.

Founder of the NGO Israeli Children, Rotem Ilan, said yesterday that Yishai's intentions were absurd.

"If the committee's recommendations are not taken into account, we'll intensify our campaign. We support the professional committee's decision, not decisions made without thought or reason. What's the difference between a child entering first grade and a child entering third? They're all children shaken and affected by the everyday reality," said Ilan.

"Interior Minister Eli Yishai, a weakling in the face of Lithuanian rabbis, becomes a cruel sheriff when faced with migrant children," said MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz ).