Dutch-israeli Seniors Are Told They May Lose Pension Benefits

In an apparent swipe at Israeli settlement policy, Holland may cut pensions for Dutch seniors who have moved to Israel but live beyond the state’s pre-1967 borders.

Beginning Jan. 1, Dutch citizens abroad will face severe pension cuts or a complete loss of Dutch child benefits and orphans’ pensions unless the country where they live has a benefit treaty with the Netherlands.

This won’t affect most Dutch immigrants to Israel, where a benefit treaty has been in place since 2001.

Early this month, however, the Social Insurance Bank, the administrative body responsible for distributing the benefits, decided to take a stand against Israel’s settlement policy.

The Netherlands has never recognized Israel’s seizure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War, the bank declared, ruling that the benefits treaty therefore didn’t apply to Dutch settlers.

Some 400 Dutch seniors, mostly residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Ramot and Gilo that were built on land seized in 1967, were notified of imminent pension cuts.

“As soon as you move to the Netherlands or a country with a treaty you will qualify for a higher pension again,” the bank wrote them.

Some Dutch Jews were outraged.

“My mother-in-law is 81. Does the bank want her to move to Tel Aviv or Amsterdam?” Yakov Colthof said.

Most of the pensioners are elderly and contributed to the Dutch pension system all their lives.

“Nobody forced the bank to apply the treaty so literally,” Colthof told the Chronicle newspaper. “In Jerusalem particularly, it’s hard to determine who lives beyond the Green Line,” as Israel’s pre-Six Day War border with the West Bank is known.

“My mother-in-law’s street isn’t even on the map,” he said. “This looks like an anti-Israeli measure by political zealots at the bank.”

The last Dutch government was increasingly critical of Israeli policy, especially regarding the settlements.

When Holland’s new government came to power a month ago, the Jewish community hoped for a friendlier attitude toward Israel. Indeed, the new foreign minister, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Christian Democratic Party, appears to agree that the bank is being overzealous.

“The minister regrets the bank’s decision, and so does the prime minister,” a spokesman for De Hoop Scheffer said.

De Hoop Scheffer and the minister of social affairs will discuss a possible reversal of the policy, the spokesman said.

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