Finance Ministry proposes cutting absorption funds for rich immigrants

According to the report, the ministry is simultaneously proposing that the benefits be increased by 10% for those who are still eligible for the assistance.

January 10, 2018 18:21
2 minute read.
A group of new olim pose after arriving in Israel

A group of new olim pose after arriving in Israel. (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)

Wealthy new immigrants may no longer receive absorption baskets from the government, if a proposal put forward by the the Finance Ministry is pushed through.

The proposal is part of a list of suggested budgetary cuts to finance new government initiatives, the ministry suggested that new immigrants with assets worth over 500,000 shekels would no longer be eligible for financial assistance and benefits that currently every new immigrant is entitled to.

The ministry is simultaneously proposing that the benefits be increased by 10% for those who are still eligible for the assistance.

The Finance Ministry declined to comment on the report, while the Immigration and Integration Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that it "opposes the Finance Ministry's intentions."

Should the proposal be implemented, it would save the Ministry of Aliya and Integration NIS 100 million and the Ministry of Construction and Housing NIS 30 million, in the assistance it provides new immigrants with rent.

In the past, the absorption basket was limited to immigrants to emigrated from countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America and some of the countries in Africa and Asia. In 2002, however, the government decided to extend the benefits to all immigrants regardless of their country of origin.

The absorption basket includes funds to help cover living expenses for six months and rent assistance for an immigrant's first year in Israel. 

A source told the Post, however, that he believes the proposal is merely part of a political game between the Aliya and Integration Ministry and the Finance Ministry, because the latter wants the former to forgo the law which exempts new immigrants and returning citizens from paying taxes for ten years on income generated outside of Israel.

Neither the Jewish Agency nor aliya organization Nefesh B'Nefesh wished to significantly weigh in on the issue at this stage.

“At this point from our understanding, this has only been an initial suggestion. Should there be a more substantive development we will look into it further ,” Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Director of Communications Yael Katsman told the Post.

Jewish Agency spokesman Avi Mayer said: "The proposed budget will undoubtedly undergo numerous changes before its passage in the Knesset. We are following all developments closely. The Jewish Agency will certainly oppose any step that will detrimentally affect immigrants or their rights."

Questioned over the Agency’s stance, Mayer responded: “We aren't going to comment on hypotheticals, but we don't believe that cutting aliya benefits to new immigrants is a step in the right direction, particularly when the proposed criteria for such cuts appear to be so superficial and arbitrary.

Founder and CEO of NGO Keep Olim in Israel Liami Lawrence had a stronger reaction to the report, describing the proposal as as "sick joke."

"An oleh [immigrant] who has 500,000 shekels is rich?" he said.

"A one bedroom shack in the ghetto of south Tel Aviv costs a million shekels. So now an oleh family sells their house in America, France or Argentina and now they can't afford a house here and get no sal klita [absorption basket]? So now they will be homeless and poor! This government is a sad joke and we olim pay the price. Olim are leaving at alarming rates - over 163 of my personal friends and acquaintances in my three years I'm here. So now olim won't bother to come at all! Instead of making better conditions for olim they are making sure no middle class professional olim will ever make aliya!"

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