Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Sunday that he would postpone a meeting with representatives of the nation's Holocaust survivors. The meeting, which was scheduled to take place on Monday, will now take place in approximately three weeks, after the High Holidays. Heads of the Knesset Lobby for Holocaust Survivors charged that the postponement indicates dishonesty on the part of the government.
In a statement Monday, MKs Colette Avital (Labor) and Zehava Gal'on (Meretz), said, "All the declarations about finding a solution [to the economic difficulties of some Holocaust survivors] were nothing but smoke and mirrors, intended to gain some time and forestall the public criticism of the government."
Prime Minister Olmert said on Sunday that the government needed more time to determine what aid to grant impoverished survivors. "The government is still working to create a 'basket of solutions' for the elderly and the needy in the state of Israel in general, and for Holocaust survivors in particular," he explained.
Last month, following publicity and protests, Prime Minister Olmert agreed to provide so-called "first circle survivors" with a monthly stipend of 1,200 shekels ($285). "First-circle survivors" are defined as those who were sent to concentration camps, as opposed to "second-circle" survivors, who escaped the Nazis as refugees. No agreement has been reached on the amount of aid granted to those in the latter group.
Regarding the distinction between first- and second-circle survivors for purposes of providing state assistance, MKs Avital and Gal'on said, "It is foot-dragging and hardheartedness that has created a scale of suffering among the survivors and those 150,000 Holocaust refugees, who have no solution ahead of the holidays."