SLA refugees who stay won't get fundsBy Sharon Gal, Ha'aretz Correspondent, Tuesday, September 12, 2000
Only those former South Lebanon Army soldiers who leave Israel will receive compensation for their years of service, the Prime Minister's Office has decided. Refugees who remain in Israel will not receive such payments, since the cost of their residing in Israel does not permit it.
Some 650 SLA refugees have returned to Lebanon, thus far, and another 400 have gone to Germany. A further 4,700 refugees remain behind in Israel, in 28 centers that are being leased to the Defense Ministry all around the country.
Attorney Yaakov Weinroth has begun meeting with the refugees, who have given him power of attorney to petition for compensation and pension payments on their behalf. Weinroth currently represents 500 refugees.
Weinroth recently told Ha'aretz that just as soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are entitled to compensation for their years of service, so too are the SLA men. During a visit to meet with refugees in the north of the country yesterday, Weinroth heard about their army service and their expectations from their claims.
"This is a real capital case," the top lawyer said yesterday, "We are investigating our options. I heard of their fears that it is government policy to send them back to Lebanon."
Hana Salamah, a former officer in the engineering corps, said that Weinroth assured them that he would first petition government representatives before going to court.
The former SLA servicemen view the recent decision of the PMO's as an
attempt to force them to leave Israel. The Administration for the
Assistance and Rehabilitation of SLA soldiers believes that more of the
refugees will return home in light of the recent election results there.