Netanyahu joins Holocaust compensation fray

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has joined the fray in the battle over the multimillion-dollar Swiss banks Holocaust settlement.

Netanyahu, in a June 30 letter to Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the umbrella organization of Holocaust reparations groups, said he supports a proposal to form a commission to centralize restitution efforts globally.

“I appreciate and agree with your proposal to establish a blue-ribbon panel to examine how to increase efficiency, transparency, relevance and coordinate in restitution efforts,” Netanyahu wrote.

His letter comes in the wake of initial calls for such a panel by Israel Singer, president of the Claims Conference, which distributes reparations and is one of the World Jewish Restitution Organization’s leading constituent members.

While it does not mention the Swiss case, Netanyahu’s letter and calls for a central restitution panel come in the wake of heated competition over some $650 million remaining in the Swiss banks case by scores of Jewish organizations worldwide.

Judah Gribetz, an adviser to the U.S. court overseeing the landmark 1998 class-action settlement, has proposed that 75 percent of the remaining money be spent on the world’s poorest Holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union.

Many groups have fought that plan, contending that it ignores the pressing needs of poor Holocaust survivors in Israel, the United States and elsewhere.