Knesset caucus on Holocaust survivors 370.
(photo credit: MK Yifat Kariv's Office)
Israel has allocated only NIS 421 million out of NIS 1.65 billion in Holocaust
restitution funds that the state holds, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and
Justice Committee declared Tuesday.
The state-run Company for Location
and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets has collected the money, which is
intended to compensate the heirs of Jews who perished in the Holocaust but who
owned properties and other assets in Israel during the pre-state
In the seven years since the state’s establishment of the
company, NIS 1.65b. in assets has been located and cataloged. However, the
Knesset committee mentioned Tuesday that of the total, only NIS 421m. had been
allocated by 2012. Over the last year, the state has restored NIS 49.8m. in
assets to claimants. By this account, a substantial NIS 1.085b. of the total
remains in company hands.
In 2006, the Knesset passed the bill that led
to the company’s establishment, in response to European Jews’ problems with real
estate and financial assets that were invested in the Jewish state’s
establishment but whose owners perished before they could claim
After a long post-election delay, the Constitution, Law and Justice
Committee resumed discussion Tuesday about the restitution of over NIS 1b. in
assets to Holocaust survivors and families of victims.
Micah Harish, the
chairman of the company’s board of directors, explained that while the first
stage of the company’s mission – locating and collecting assets – had been
completed, much work remained on the second stage: dealing with restitution of
assets to survivors and relatives.
MK Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah
Judaism) complained that to date, the company had spent more on management costs
than on restitution payments. As it stands, the company is allowed to draw an
operating budget from 2 percent of the total assets held. Based on the 2012
end-of-year figure of NIS 1.085b., the state-mandated figure for the 2013
operating budget stands at NIS 21.662m. However, company CEO Israel Peleg
promised to distribute a more considerable sum of NIS 88m. by the end of the
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In light of the gradual nature of the company’s restitution
payments, concerns have abounded over the prospect of asset wealth being
liquidated for uses not specified by the law.
MKs Shuli Muallem (Bayit
Yehudi) and Merav Michaeli (Labor) demanded that the company double its aid to
They pointed out that the survivors were dwindling, and in not
so long, “there will no longer be anyone to aid.”
Responding to this
concern, Harish called for the assets to remain in the company’s hands after its
legally mandated closing date of 2017, in order to ensure that the remaining
monies could benefit survivors rather than state projects. To this date, there
has been no official discussion of how to allocate assets remaining in the
company’s hands after the statutory expiration of its mission.
members were divided over issues such as the distribution of prepaid monthly
grocery cards worth NIS 200 each to restitution recipients. In addition, they
offered a chorus of suggestions for how to retool the relationship between the
company and lawmakers during the project’s remaining years.
Stern (Hatnua) took it upon himself to negotiate with the Finance Ministry over
additional state support for the company, in an attempt to guarantee that assets
would be distributed at a brisker pace.
Pointing to numbers that
suggested the company had spent 3% on management costs in past years, MK David
Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) demanded that it by no means exceed the legally imposed
rate of 2%.
MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) asked the company to work toward
synchronizing information with organizations abroad in the business of locating
lost assets in Israel.
Despite the criticism, the committee members took
time to praise the company for its work in locating and restoring significant
sums of money to survivors and their relatives. They joined together in a call
for cooperation among the Justice, Finance and Welfare and Social Services
ministries in justly distributing the lost assets.
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