At a meeting which took place this afternoon, with the participation of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Pensioner Affairs, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Director General of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Welfare, along with representatives of the Center for Holocaust Survivor Organizations headed by Noah Pelog, a comprehensive assistance package was agreed upon which the Government would provide to Holocaust survivors who live in Israel.
After one and a half weeks of intensive discussions between representatives of the organizations and representatives of the Government, inter alia, the following was agreed upon:
• The State of Israel will ensure that every Holocaust survivor who survived the camps and the ghettos, who is not currently receiving a monthly allowance, will receive an average monthly stipend of NIS 1,200 from the State. This is in addition to the old age allowance and income completion allowance, which will, together, ensure each survivor from this group a monthly income of no less than NIS 3,400. During the discussion, the Prime Minister determined that the deadline for this resolution will be October 2007, and over the next two years, the government of Israel will work vis-à-vis the German government so that they carry the burden of responsibility for the payment.
• Survivors who survived the camps and the ghettos who receive income from the German government (approximately 30,000 survivors) will, in 2008, receive a benefits package amounting to NIS 30 million, which will include, inter alia, an exemption from paying the television tax and tax breaks on property tax. In 2009, the budget will be increased to include supplemental benefits to this group in the amount of NIS 90 million, and each survivor in this group will receive benefits of NIS 3,000 per annum.
• Survivors who survived the camps and the ghettos who are at the bottom of the income range and who receive an income completion allowance, will, beginning in 2008, receive an annual grant of NIS 3,000. This is in accordance with the Prime Minister’s decision to triple the "Benefits for Needy Holocaust Survivors" Law which the late MK Yuri Stern legislated. This is a group of approximately 8,000 survivors.
• The State of Israel will increase the government budget by an additional NIS 200 million in the next two years for welfare services provided to Holocaust survivors, whether in the first or second circles, while focusing on those survivors who are suffering economic hardship. The Director General of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Welfare will decide on the means of dividing the resources, which will include a significant increase in the number of hours of frail care provided, significant discounts when purchasing medications, short-term frail care solutions and grants to cover one-time expenses.
• The Prime Minister stated that the government intends to recognize the Holocaust survivors. In this framework, the State Symbols and Ceremonies Committee, headed by Minister Ya’akov Edri, will discuss the matter and propose a government resolution. It was further agreed to establish a public committee to discuss the matter of recognizing and honoring the survivors.
• During the meeting, it was agreed that the state would, through legislation, recognize the Center for Holocaust Survivor Organizations in Israel as a representative and budgeted organization. The state will transfer an inclusive sum of approximately NIS 16 million to this organization and to other organizations which work to improve the welfare of the survivors.
• Other agreements were made between representatives of the survivors and representatives of the government, including steps to fully realize the survivors’ rights, establishing an information and assistance center, as well as a joint government-survivor oversight committee, which will follow-up on the implementation of the agreements.
Regarding assistance to the group of "Holocaust refugees" (the second circle), which has not yet received any monthly allowances from the German government or the government of Israel, the Prime Minister stated that ways of treating this group should be examined in the framework of the overall treatment of the needy elderly population.
During the discussion, the Prime Minister said: "I am not disputing for even one second the distress of those who escaped those countries in which there were Nazis, and they are survivors of the Nazi conquest. By Rosh Hashanah, recommendations by the National Economic Council, headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, will be presented to me regarding the proper way to assist the entire population of the needy elderly, and in the event that no general solution is found, we will discuss a targeted solution for this group. I will not act without consultation, and will dedicate all the necessary time to this."