Ministers Irate Over Treasury Threat to Holocaust Survivors

Minister Yossi Peled, a Holocaust survivor, calls new regulations 'idiotic in the best of circumstances.'

Past and present ministers as well as non-profit organizations on Monday fiercely criticized letters the Finance Ministry has been sending Holocaust survivors, threatening to withhold benefits unless they agree to allow the ministry to withdraw funds from their bank accounts that it believes they received erroneously.

"Unreasonable and disproportionate," wrote Minister without Portfolio Yossi Peled to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. The letters "lead to the conclusion that unfortunately there are employees in your office seeking to block or impede Holocaust survivors on their exhausting journey to be granted what they deserve."

Peled, himself a Holocaust survivor, called the regulations "idiotic in the best of circumstances."

Ken Lazaken, an elderly-rights group, asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to order the ministry to annul the new regulations. "There is no other government body authorized to enter citizens' bank accounts and do what it likes," the organization wrote. "The Finance Ministry's demand has no legal basis, and it's unclear why the ministry decided to take such an inappropriate step at this moment."

Former pensioners affairs minister Rafi Eitan also blasted the government's actions. "This is a downtrodden group of people who for 50 years hasn't received budgeting from the Finance Ministry. During my term as pensioners affairs minister we were able to provide them with NIS 1,000 a month," Eitan said.

"Many of them are needy or disabled, and most are over age 80. If a small portion of them receive double benefits, they deserve it unequivocally," he said. "These are small sums. It's certainly no reason to beat down everybody. I hope that eventually cooler heads will prevail."