MKs to convene over Shoah survivors

Factions call for session during summer break to solve disputed fund problem.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The Knesset will convene Monday for a special session during its summer recess to discuss the state stipends to Holocaust survivors living in Israel. The session was called for by 50 Knesset members from most of the opposition parties, including Arab parties. On Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reached a partial agreement with representatives of Holocaust survivors in Israel to significantly increase stipends for needy survivors, but the parties failed to agree on benefits for the tens of thousands of elderly Israelis who fled the Nazi regime and were not in the camps. Under the accord, NIS 1,200 per month will be paid to everyone living in Israel who survived the Nazis' ghettos and camps and who is not already receiving a monthly allowance other than a National Insurance Institute pension, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. The new stipend, which will be paid to 8,500 survivors, represents a significant increase from the government's previous offer from two months ago. Another 10,000 Holocaust survivors will receive NIS 500 in monthly tax benefits and other discounts, and 12,000 to 13,000 will receive NIS 1,000 in benefits, said Uri Arazi, spokesman for the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. The sides failed to reach an agreement on stipends for 85,000 people living in Israel who fled the Nazis but were never incarcerated in ghettos or in Nazi camps, with the premier pushing off the issue until at least next month. These survivors, dubbed "the second circle," are predominantly people who immigrated from the former Soviet Union over the last two decades. The head of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, Noah Flug, had proposed a compromise in which the government would provide these survivors NIS 500 a month, less than half the amount a recent welfare report suggested. But Olmert said members of this group should be treated the same as other needy elderly, a statement from his office read. He told the representatives of Holocaust survivors that by Rosh Hashana, which starts on the evening of September 12, the National Economic Council, headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, would present him with recommendations on how to assist all needy elderly. Olmert said he hoped that an accord could be reached for these Holocaust survivors in such a framework. The prime minister said that if no general solution was found, the two sides would discuss a specific agreement for this group after the High Holidays, according to the statement. Flug lauded Sunday's partial accord. "I am very satisfied with the agreement," he said. "One also has to know how to compromise." He said this was the first time the government had genuinely tried to solve the issue of how to help needy Holocaust survivors living in Israel. Welfare and Social Services Ministry Director-General Nahum Itzkovich also praised the increased government support for Holocaust survivors, but voiced disappointment that an accord was not reached for those who had fled the Nazis. Nearly a third of the country's 250,000 survivors live in poverty, recent welfare reports have shown. staff contributed to this report.