PM, survivors reach partial agreement

Those who were in camps will get NIS 1,000/mo.; others to wait until holidays.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Holocaust survivors who were in concentration camps will receive a monthly stipend of approximately NIS 1,000 plus pension allocations and benefits, according to a government agreement following a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday. Survivors who are eligible for income subsidies and get only 270 euros a month will now receive additional aid of several thousand shekels a year. However, some 150,000 survivors who were not in the camps and fled to Russia during the war were unable to reach a deal. They were promised a solution to their plight by the beginning of the upcoming holidays. The reported deal comes after a week of negotiations between Holocaust survivor groups and the Prime Minister's Office. "An injustice has been fixed," said Uri Hanoch, one the survivors' representatives. "We have reached satisfactory results at this stage with a lot of good will shown by both sides," he added, stressing, "we are dealing with many groups of survivors." As part of the deal, state funding for the Holocaust Survivors Welfare Fund will be increased fivefold. In two years, the organization will be allocated 200 million shekels. However, the draft deal does not refer to 80,000 Israelis who fled Eastern Europe during the Second World War. Government representatives formulated a proposal whereby each refugee would receive 500 shekels monthly but the Prime Minister's Office opted to leave the decision to Olmert. "It is a group that has been deprived by the government and now the government has an opportunity to correct this," said Welfare and Social Services Ministry director-general Nahum Itzkovich. Representatives of survivors met with Olmert later Sunday in order to finalize an agreement over state assistance. Olmert said the meeting was "practical and impressive." The two sides have reached agreement on "most issues," but gaps remain for Olmert to settle, a spokesman for the Holocaust survivors had said over the weekend. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office agreed that most of the main issues had been resolved over the last two weeks and that the main issue that remained was who would be classified as a Holocaust survivor and eligible for the agreed upon payments. Holocaust survivors groups recently rejected a proposed government stipend of NIS 83 per month to tens of thousands of the country's 250,000 Holocaust survivors as both woefully insufficient and insulting, calling the move too little too late. The state plan announced last month, which was put forward by Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog and approved by Olmert, allocated NIS 130 million in additional financial assistance to survivors next year, a sum to be doubled in 2009, and to reach more than NIS 300m. by 2011. Nearly a third of the country's survivors live in poverty, recent welfare reports have shown, prompting growing calls for additional government assistance. A State Comptroller's Report released last week found "severe shortcomings" in assistance to elderly Holocaust survivors. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.