December 28, 2003The cabinet sharply criticized the handling of the matter to date, saying it had been improper.
by Zeev Klein and Itamar Levin
The cabinet today established a ministerial committee headed by Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Natan Sharansky to handle the restoration of the rights and property of Jews who died in the Holocaust. Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom and Minister of Justice Joseph (Tomy) Lapid made a joint proposal to this effect.
The cabinet sharply criticized the handling of the matter to date, saying it had been improper. The cabinet said that too many groups were involved in the restoration of Jewish property. The cabinet decision said that it was for the government to establish policy on the matter. It was agreed that the cabinet would act jointly with the Jewish Agency and private organizations currently dealing with the issue.
The establishment of a ministerial committee marks a turn in Israeli policy. Up until now, Israel has taken a back seat on the issue, merely supporting the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), founded by the major Jewish organizations, out of concern over a conflict of interest between Israeli national interests and those of the Jewish people.
The ministerial committee will have seven members, including the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Housing and Construction, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Justice, and Minister without Portfolio Meir Sheetrit. A steering committee of directors general, headed by two joint chairpersons, one representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the other appointed by Sharansky, will also be established.
The cabinet also decided that Israel would coordinate claims for the restoration of the rights of Jews who fled Arab countries. A special steering committee headed by the Ministry of Justice director general and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general will be appointed.
© Globes [online]