In the coming days Israel’s government will vote on providing grants of up to $136,000 to the veterans of the South Lebanon Army [who fled to Israel during the May 2000 withdrawal], in recognition of their courageous contributions to past IDF operations in Lebanon.
By Lilach Shoval
Veterans of the South Lebanon Army who reside in Israel will soon become eligible for substantial housing assistance, in recognition of their contribution to IDF operations in southern Lebanon prior to the military’s withdrawal from the region in May 2000.
The SLA was dissolved in the summer after the Israeli withdrawal and Israel absorbed some 7,000 SLA veterans and their families. Integration difficulties overwhelmed the majority of them, and over half of them have since left Israel.
According to a bill drafted by the Defense Ministry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s adviser on the SLA Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yigal Pressler, housing grants would amount to 500,000 shekels ($136,000) for each family.
The bill will be presented to a government vote in the coming days.
The Defense Ministry has earmarked NIS 150 million ($41 million) for this purpose, estimating that some 300 SLA veterans are eligible for housing assistance. The funds will be distributed between 2019 and 2024.
The proposal states that the assistance will be offered to SLA veterans “as a token of the state’s deep appreciation for their work with the IDF, and taking into account the economic distress most of them experience, especially with regard to housing issues.”
The bill notes that “even today, 18 years after the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon, a significant portion of SLA veterans residing in Israel face integration difficulties and suffer from dire financial straits”
”Given this situation, and out of a sense of responsibility toward SLA veterans who have tied their fate with that of the State of Israel, it was decided to afford them a one-time grant of NIS 500,000 for the purchase of an apartment,” the bill reads.
The proposal sets various eligibility criteria for housing benefits. It defines an SLA veteran as an individual who served in the South Lebanon Army as defined in the 2004 South Lebanon Army Personnel and their Families Law, and further states that the widows of SLA veterans will also be eligible for assistance.
Eligibility evaluations will be conducted by the Construction and Housing Ministry, and a ministerial committee will prioritize such applications.
The state has offered financial assistance to SLA veterans and their families in the past and is currently still funding housing expenses for 220 households.
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