The Knesset's Constitution Committee held a discussion on the issue at the Society's request. During the committee meeting, representatives explained that they are no longer able to meet the aid set by law for Holocaust survivors. According to the Society's representatives, the reason for this is an economic dispute with the management of the World Zionist Organization, which they say refuses to distribute Bank Leumi shares upon which the budget earmarked for survivor's assistance is based.
A hearing will be held on Wednesday at the Tel Aviv District Court at the Society's request to order the Jewish Colonial Trust, a company controlled by the World Zionist Organization, to distribute Bank Leumi shares as dividends to its shareholders.
The Society for the Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets, which owns about a quarter of the Jewish Colonial Trust's shares, claims that the 11,000 Holocaust survivors, to whom they are legally bound to furnish aid every three months, is based on the distribution of shares. The petition to the court claims that the procedure is an emergency given the fact that the number of survivors is diminishing steadily.
The World Zionist Organization, meanwhile, claims that the Society can sell the shares it owns right away.
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) said at the committee meeting that "The relationship between the Society for the Restitution of Assets and any other body can not come at the expense of Holocaust survivors. A commercial dispute between public bodies cannot be allowed to hurt Holocaust survivors and prevent them from receiving their aid."
MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) added, "We are witnessing the audacity of Zionist groups engaging in economic calculations regarding shares, while survivors who are dying every day are not getting their money. We demand the transfer of funds to the Society and Holocaust survivors."
The World Zionist Organization said in response, "The Society for the Restitution of Assets prefers holding Holocaust survivors hostage, and not pay them money as it can do in a fast and simple procedure. The Society's behavior is preventing Holocaust survivors, many of whom are dying every day, from receiving money they desperately need. It is a badge of shame for the Society, which contradicts the spirit of the mandate it received from the government and the Knesset."
Meanwhile, the pensioners' lobby headed by MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) and MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), convened for a special first debate ahead of the budget. During the discussion, different objectives were presented which they intended to promote in the Knesset, including a bill that guarantees the payment of additional income to any elderly person under the poverty line, and raising the budget for the health basket.
Haim Turgeman, 80, told the dozens of attendees at the conference of his difficult economic situation without a stable pension: "One question bothers me: Where the hell is the state? Social Security throws me to the bank, the bank throws me to the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, and they throw me down the stairs. I don't have money to pay for food. I have no money to take care of my son, who is depended on me. I'm begging the people who are listening to this - help people who have nothing to eat."
Turgeman, a Jerusalem resident, assisted by the The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, added: "My great fortune is that there are several organizations that help me every month to put something in my mouth. Without this help I would have nothing to eat."