Fraud or deception?
Booby-trapped deal. Could the Finance Ministry have included a clause in the deal with Holocaust survivors that voids it of all substance? That is what MKs Colette Avital and Zahava Gal-On claimed yesterday during discussions in the Knesset on the aid package to survivors. According to the clause in question, aid to Holocaust survivors will not drop below NIS 3,400 a month. Avital and Gal-On concluded that whoever already receives government assistance greater than NIS 3,400 will not receive the new grants. The difference between the two MKs is that Gal-On is certain this was a premeditated attempt to cheat the survivors. Avital is unsure whether it was a mistake or a plot.
A question of timing. It is no coincidence that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is so happy with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik's performance. With someone else in her place, Olmert would probably have had to suffer through a harsh Knesset debate two weeks ago, when survivors were protesting with yellow stars of David on their shirts. That is what her job mandated. But Itzik chose to hold the discussion on the very morning when the agreement between the government and the survivors was announced. How convenient!
"You are forgetting that you are the speaker for all of us," Gal-On reminded her. "Your job is not to work for the prime minister." Yesterday, five MKs proposed a special session during the summer recess on "the education minister's attempts to undermine Jewish and Zionist education." It will be interesting to see when that debate is held.
The power of an apology. About a month ago, Itzik stole the show during Shimon Peres's inauguration as president when she apologized on behalf of the Knesset for all "the bitterness we have caused you." That evidently taught her the power of an apology. Yesterday, therefore, she called for a solution to the issue of assistance to Holocaust survivors "so that we can look humbly into the survivors' eyes and tell them, on behalf of the state of Israel and Israeli society: Sorry!"
A stipend for Anne Frank. Most of the participants in yesterday's debate assailed the distinction the government made between Holocaust survivors and refugees. MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) said that if Anne Frank had survived in her hideaway, and not been sent to a death camp, she would not have received any aid. He also said that "it is inconceivable for Israel to carry out a selection" between survivors.
Which year do you mean? MK Yitzhak Levy (National Union-National Religious Party) ridiculed the government's vow to solve the problem of the Holocaust refugees by the new year, asking which year it had in mind. In general, MKs were pessimistic. Levy and Avital warned of the possibility that the treasury would kill the assistance to survivors by dragging out the process. "So long as the issue of aid is in the treasury's hands, nothing will move forward," Avital said.
Ethnic discrimination. Surprisingly, most of the shouting during the debate revolved around discrimination between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, not between Holocaust survivors and refugees. "All Jewish communities that suffered injury in the Holocaust are receiving what they are due, except for the Libyans and Tunisians," MK Moshe Kahlon (Likud) cried out. "Seven hundred people from Libya and Tunisia died. There is blatant discrimination here. This stain must be wiped clean," he added.
The survivors' brother. The minister who responded for the government was, not by chance, an elderly pensioner - Rafi Eitan. "I turn to my brothers, the survivors. We are of the same generation and we all share the same fate," Eitan said. "I hope that marches like the one held two weeks ago will not recur. From now on, we will march in unison on the path of cooperation."