Olmert vows state aid for needy Holocaust survivors

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday promised to provide state funds to needy Holocaust survivors, amid criticism over the Jewish state’s foot-dragging on the issue.

“We have defined the criteria to distribute hundreds of millions of shekels to Holocaust survivors so that each one of them can live decently,” he said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

The ministries of finance, social affairs and pensioners will sign an accord cementing these criteria on Monday, he said.

A foundation for the survivors accused the premier of dragging his feet on the issue, after he promised on April 16 during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day to do more for an estimated 60,000-80,000 survivors in Israel living below the poverty line.

“Israel has profited by the German reparations… but has abstained from transferring from two to five billion shekels (470 million to 1.17 billion dollars) owed to the survivors of the genocide,” Gal Rotem, an official with the foundation, told AFP.

“Time is of the essence,” Rotem said. “Each month, a thousand survivors of the Nazi hell are disappearing.”

Some 250,000 Holocaust survivors are currently estimated to live in Israel.