Netanyahu's wife wades into deportation row

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah on a navy ship with Greek PM George Papandreou and his wife

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah on a navy ship with Greek PM George Papandreou and his wife

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel's prime minister, has joined in the debate on the future of 400 children of foreign workers who will have to leave Israel with their families over the next couple of weeks.

The cabinet decided three weeks ago to allow around 800 children to remain in Israel.

According to the new guidelines, children who have started school, who are about to this year or who have lived in Israel for at least five years and speak Hebrew, will be allowed to stay if both their parents entered legally.

Such conditions apply to about two-thirds of the 1200 children of foreign workers currently living in Israel. The remainder have been given 30 days to leave of their own free will.

Mrs Netanyahu sent a private letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the main driver in refusing the children permanent status in Israel.

Writing "as a mother to two young boys and a psychologist in the public service", she urged the minister to reconsider his position and allow most of the 400 children to remain in Israel.

The cabinet was split over the issue with ten ministers opposing it and 13 in favour. Interior Minister Yishai, of Shas, opposed along with the other ministers of his party, declaring: "We must not let illegal workers remain and change the identity of the state simply because they have children, it is only an excuse."

But Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was in favour of allowing all the children to stay and voted against, saying in cabinet: "This is not the state of the Jews as I know it, deporting children."

    Last updated: 1:00pm, August 19 2010