Panel to Examine Dispersal of Holocaust Compensation

NEW YORK - A special committee including representatives from the Israeli government and Jewish organizations will examine ways to make the process of dispersing compensation payments to Holocaust survivors more efficient.

The panel also will consider reevaluating the priorities for administering the money received from several humanitarian funds.

The agreement to set up the "blue ribbon panel" is included in an official letter by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the president of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, Edgar Bronfman, and the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Dr. Israel Singer.

In the June 30 letter, Netanyahu stated that the panel will "examine how to increase efficiency, transparency, relevance and coordination in restitution efforts, including the disbursements of heirless restitution funds."

Netanyahu specifically is refering to accounts of victims who died in the Holocaust and property belonging to communities that are entitled to compensation.

The finance minister said the panel should expedite its work and prepare recommendations within 90 days of its establishment.

Sources said that the panel's evaluation is expected to have an effect on the priorities guiding the dispersal of funds, particularly the $600-800 million in humanitarian funds set up by Swiss banks.

Senior Jewish leaders said Thursday that this is the first time the Israeli government will be involved in an area that had been handled solely by the Jewish organizations.

"Netanyahu's letter was a precedent-setting step that reflects the unity between Israel and the Diaspora," Ilan Steinberd, director of the World Jewish Congress, said.