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Russia Sponsors Israeli Welfare System

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Russia Sponsors Israeli Welfare System

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smiles as he addresses supporters on election night at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv early on April 10, 2019. (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

On June 6, 2016, Israel and Russia signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of social security. The Agreement determines the procedures for granting old age, disability and survivor pensions and other benefits to citizens of the Russian Federation and the State of Israel who live on their territory and are covered by their laws.

On November 28, 2019, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that 20,000 Israelis, who have pensionable service in the Russian Federation or the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (a part of the USSR) have been recognized as eligible for payments of pensions by Russia. A total amount paid to Israeli citizens is over 870 million rubles (approx. 14 million USD).

Additionally, on July 8, 2017, the Russian President issued a decree giving lifetime benefits to some WWII veterans from the Former Soviet Union who now live in Israel. According to the decree, a monthly benefit to the tune of 1,000 rubles (approx. $16) will be awarded to Israeli nationals who used to live in the USSR and fought for their country between 1941-1945 or who were underage prisoners of concentration camps. 500 rubles (approx. $16) will be paid per month to Israeli citizens who hold the title of “Citizen of Besieged Leningrad,” as well as to widows and widowers of service members who died fighting Nazi Germany and its allies, or during the Soviet war with Finland (1939-1940) and the war with Japan (August-September 1945), and former adult prisoners of camps. The Russian Foreign Ministry says that as of November 2019, Rusisa paid 800,000 rubles (approx. 12,500 USD) to Israeli citizens under this decree.

In 2017, Russia spent 41.5 billion rubles to pay pensions to citizens of other countries that have pensionable service in the Russian Federation or the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. At that time, Russia was paying pensions to citizens of 129 states, including Israel (41,400 people), Germany (101,400 people), and the United States (21,800 people). Thus, the number of Israeli citizens receiving Russian pensions doubled thanks to the 2016 agreement.

These actions of the Russian government are expected to demonstrate that it, as the successor of the USSR, did not forget about the role that people who immigrated to other states for one reason or another contributed to the development of the Soviet economy. Nonetheless, the exceptional conditions for Israelis raise a reasonable question. Why does Russia demonstrate such a kindness to Israeli citizens? In the 1990s and 2000s, an equal or even bigger number of people immigrated to Germany and Canada. There are no agreements easing the process of receiving pensions for these people.

It is not clear what was behind the Russian decision to make such an agreement with Israel. There are a few possible reasons:

  • This is a part of the Israeli-Russian deal on Syria and (or) Ukraine;
  • This is a public demonstration of the influence of the Israeli lobby in the Russian political establishment;
  • This measure is designed to strengthen relations between Russia and Israel.

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