Gantz and IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi at memorial ceremony for South Lebanon Army
Gantz and IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi at memorial ceremony for South Lebanon Army Basel Awidat/Flash90

On Sunday, the Israeli government voted to back a proposal to provide cash grants to veterans of the South Lebanon Army living in Israel.

The SLA, a Christian militia which had been allied with Israel since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, collapsed in the spring of 2000, when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.

Some four hundred SLA veterans fled to Israel, along with their families, fearing retribution for their cooperation with Israel over the previous 18 years.

"The proposal was submitted out of deep appreciation for the shoulder-to-shoulder work of the South Lebanon Army veterans alongside soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, and given their recent economic distress, particularly in regard to housing," the IDF said in a statement Sunday afternoon, backing the decision.

As part of the proposal, it was approved that eligible veterans of the South Lebanon Army will receive financial assistance for housing in the form of a one-time amount of 550,000 NIS ($161,184).

This sum will be granted to each of the permitted veterans between 2022-2026, in accordance with the ranking to be determined by an inter-ministerial team.

The grant is intended to help the SLA refugees living in Israel to find permanent housing solutions.

Assistance will only be provided to those who served in the South Lebanon Army in accordance with the provisions of the South Lebanon Army Law, or to the spouse of a deceased South Lebanon Army veteran, provided that they reside in Israel.

The proposal was part of an initiative of the Israeli government that began around four years ago with the establishment of an IDF task force to address the gaps left in the absorption of veterans of the South Lebanese Army into Israel.

Leading the task force is the Commanding Officer of JCOM and Commandant of the Military Colleges, MG Itai Veruv.

The IDF led staff work in cooperation with the Israel Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Ministry of Finance with the intent of creating an extensive plan to rectify the housing shortage of South Lebanon Army veterans.

This resulted in a decision-making proposal approved this morning by the Israeli government, in cooperation with the Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the Minister of Finance Avigdor Lieberman.

The IDF representative committee was also involved in commemorating the legacy of the South Lebanon Army.

As part of that initiative, a South Lebanon Army monument was inaugurated, a campaign medal was awarded to veterans of the South Lebanon Army and a museum dedicated to the South Lebanon Army’s legacy planned to be opened in Metula.

Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kohavi: “We hold a great appreciation for our brothers in arms, the soldiers of the South Lebanon Army, who fought beside us for many years, while putting their lives at risk. We value their contribution to the combat achievements in Southern Lebanon, and over the years we have not forgotten our allies and our moral duty to help them live a worthy and respectful life. We have been working on the subject over the last four years and I am honored to see that our efforts bear fruit today. We have a long way to go, but we view this step as an important and significant achievement”.