Olmert revokes cut to olim benefits

Original decision deflated package by 20%; PM upholds nixing of customs grant.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday decided to revoke an Absorption Ministry budget cut that would have lowered benefits for new olim by 20 percent, Army Radio reported. Olmert, however, did not rescind the decision to cancel a customs grant provided to olim from impoverished regions. "I am happy over the prime minister's and foreign minister's decision to cancel the cut to the absorption benefit package," Absorption Ministry Director-General Erez Halfon told Army Radio. He added, however, that the ministry would battle "with all its might" against the cuts that were upheld. "[These cuts] would constitute a message to all olim…that the state of Israel is shutting its gates to them," Halfon said. Absorption Minister Yaakov Edri had called the initial decision "a death blow to aliya to Israel." According to the prime minister's amendment to the cut, a special customs grant, provided only to olim from impoverished regions in Eastern Europe and Africa, would still be nixed. The grant provides olim with meager means with the possibility of purchasing electric appliances at a reduced price upon their arrival in Israel. In an earlier press release Halfon had said that the "decree is a critical blow, particularly for underprivileged populations that are unable to bring with them essential appliances or to purchase them in Israel." "Anyone expecting a destitute family to subsist without a refrigerator and a washing machine is sabotaging Israel's most vital asset, the new olim," Halfon said. In addition, the prime minister and the Finance Ministry decided to uphold the decision to put an end to a program that encourages the immigration of foreign academics specializing in research and development by providing them with tenures in Israeli research institutions. According to Halfon, the program was providing "an immediate solution to Israel's 'brain drain' phenomenon."