Gov't okays higher budget for survivors

Budget to see an increase of NIS 250m. by the end of 2008; Dorner to push for implementation.

dorner 88 (photo credit: )
dorner 88
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On officially endorsed the conclusion of the Dorner Commission on Holocaust survivors, Monday. The budget allocated to support aging survivors is consequently expected to rise by NIS 250 million. The decision will affect approximately 40,000 survivors living in Israel. The basic welfare payment will be raised to reach 75 percent of the subsidy paid by the German government. In 2009, survivors are expected to receive NIS 2 billion from the state, a sum reflecting the additions the government agreed to and the payments survivors were previously entitled to. A budget cut across the board for all government ministries that was announced last week was meant to allow allocation of funds to implement the Dorner Commission recommendations. Earlier Monday, retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, who headed the commission, promised representatives of the Center for Holocaust Survivors' Organizations that she would campaign for the implementation of the recommendations made by the state commission of inquiry she headed. Dorner told the representatives, headed by Noah Flug, chairman of the Center for Holocaust Survivors' Organizations, that although it was unusual for judges who have headed commissions of inquiry to remain involved in the subject of their investigation after completing their work, she would continue to do so because of the survivors' special circumstances. The report, published on June 22, called for increasing government payments to the 43,000 survivors who are ineligible for direct compensation from the German government, to 75 percent of the amount that Berlin pays survivors living in other countries. According to the reparations agreement Israel signed with Germany in 1952, it took upon itself to represent Holocaust survivors who made aliyah from 1953. Consequently, these survivors do not apply directly to Germany for payment but instead receive compensation from the reparations that Germany paid the state. This makes them completely dependent on the Israeli government for compensation. Dorner and her committee estimated that the value of the German reparations amounted to NIS 61.5 billion in today's terms and that the government had only paid NIS 38 billion to the survivors in grants and medical expenses. Thus, the government owed each of the 43,000 survivors between NIS 1.3 million and NIS 2.2 million, depending on how much the government had paid each individual survivor up until now. The committee added that since it would be too great a burden on the treasury to repay the survivors what they are actually owed, the government should increase the payments to 75% of the compensation payments paid by the German government. The government has announced that it will address the Dorner Commission recommendations in the 2009 budget. This has caused an outcry because of the mortality rate of the survivors, who need the money immediately. According to estimates, 30-40 Israeli survivors die each day According to a spokesman for the Center for Holocaust Survivors' Organizations, representatives met on Sunday with Ra'anan Dinur, director-general of the Prime Minister's Bureau. Dinur proposed granting the survivors 70% of the German figure and distributing the other five percent to the neediest of the survivors. The payments would be retroactive from January 2008, the spokesman said. Sources at the Center said Finance Minister Roni Bar-On is in favor of providing the grants in 2008.