Knesset vote 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Social welfare and citizen rights organizations expressed their anger Monday at
what they believe is the government’s failure to make good on a three-year-old
promise to provide emergency financial aid to non-profits hit hard by the global
economic crisis of 2008.
The organizations, which plan to hold an
emergency meeting Wednesday, were reacting to an announcement from the Ministry
of Welfare and Social Services about the distribution of NIS 30 million in
financial aid to some 135 non-profit organizations operating in the fields of
education, health, immigration and social welfare.
According to the
organizations, the government had originally committed to a bailout program of
NIS 100m. for both 2009 and 2010, aimed at providing a financial boost to
a wide range of NGOs, which had seen a huge drop in local and international
Many of the organizations provide privatized government
services to some of the country’s weakest segments of the
However, both in the 2009 budget, which was distributed in
March 2010 and in the 2010 budget, which was announced on Monday – nearly two
years late – the amount offered by the government was substantially less than
Sari Revkin, executive director of social
empowerment organization Yedid, and one of the NGOs behind the push for a
government bailout scheme, told The Jerusalem Post
that she was furious over the
government’s failure to keep its commitment.
“My first reaction is
complete paranoia,” she said. “I feel that they have taken this money from us
and are going to use it for whatever recommendations are made by the
Trajtenberg Committee. This is something that happens all the time; the
government takes funds from one pot and moves it to another one, rather than
investing new funds.”
In a letter sent Monday to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Welfare Minister Moshe Kahalon,
Yedid – together with the Israel Civic Leadership Association – highlighted the
promises made back in 2009 and called on the government to freeze the current
allocation until another NIS 70,000 is added to the aid package. The
organizations also demanded that the initiative be extended through 2013 because
they feel the economic situation facing the countries non-profit sector is set
“In most other countries where the third sector is suffering
financially the government has done nothing to help them, Israel is the only
country in the world, as far as I know, that has decided to offer this kind of
assistance for non-profit organizations,” responded Nahum Itzkovitz, director
general of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, who has headed the
financial aid committee for the past two years.
He added: “I know it is
the role of civil society to attack the government and I have accepted this, but
I am surprised that the NGOs have not welcomed our good
Itzkovitz pointed out that the reduced amount from NIS 100m.
to NIS 30m. this year was reached after it was decided that over the past year
many of the non-profit organizations had recovered from the financial blow
suffered in 2008- 2009.
In the previous year, the amount was also reduced
from NIS 100m. to NIS 66m. He said this was due to the lack of nonprofits that
qualified for the aid.
Itzkovitz flatly denied that the reduced funding
over the past two years was politically motivated – the Finance Ministry had
originally suggested NIS 30m. for the bailout package, but was obliged to add
more after political pressure from the coalition agreement between Labor and
Since the promise was made, Labor has left the
Asked if it was true that Israel’s non-profits had seen some
economic recovery over the past year, Yedid’s Revkin responded: “We reject the
government’s assessments that NGOs are no longer suffering from financial
difficulties. The situation is about to get much, much worse again.”