By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz Correspondent

Treasury and welfare officials are deeply divided on the handling of needy Holocaust survivors. Disputes at a special interministerial committee revolve around who is a Holocaust survivor, how much money should be distributed and how to finance such measures.

Officials at the Finance and Justice Ministries do not want to get involved in the definition of a Holocaust survivor.

Social services officals would like to include the 100,000 former residents of the Soviet Union living in Israel, along with the 150,000 survivors of concentration camps, ghettos and countries occupied by the Nazis and their allies who came to Israel in the 1940s and 50s.

The treasury believes the issue is socially and emotionally loaded and that the broader definition of a survivor will overburden the state by billions of shekels. Treasury officials suggested increasing budgets for organizations that help needy survivors and increasing old-age stipends for the needy elderly, without defining who is a Holocaust survivor. The treasury estimates that this will cost up to NIS 200 million.

The Social Affairs Ministry has rejected the proposal as cumbersome and insufficient, touting identical monthly stipends for all 250,000 survivors whose income is below a certain level. Ministry officials have suggested asking Germany to finance the aid in order to preserve Israel’s budget structure and sovereign credit rating. The treasury agrees that the German government should finance survivors’ needs, but doesn’t see a practical way to demand that.

The Social Affairs Ministry stated in response: “Recently there has been a wave of pressure regarding the impending plan for needy Holocaust survivors. The plan will be balanced, provide alternatives and provide a practical and rapid solution to handling the problem.”