Disability Rights Groups Protest Inadequate Funding Across Israel

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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A disabled rights protest in Tel Aviv in 2018.
A disabled rights protest in Tel Aviv in 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Disability rights organizations are demonstrating on Sunday at dozens of sites across Israel, blocking roads and junctions from 8 A.M., to protest the government’s failure to adequately provide them with legislatively mandated grants to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels.

The organizations claim that the Finance Ministry has indicated that if the budget is not passed at year’s end it will refuse to continue to provide grants it has issued as extra-budgetary over the past two years in the absence of an approved state budget.

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The plan to increase pension benefits for disabled people, which came into force as law in 2018, provided that the increase would take place in four phases. The first two installments were implemented immediately and increased pensions to about 3,300 ($1,008) shekels a month. Because the other two installments, which raised pensions to 3,700 shekels, were not part of the state budget, which has not been approved for the past two years, they were given as extra-budgetary grants, and not from the budget of the treasury and other ministries.

The protests have also been fueled by reductions to pension benefit amounts brought on by the Finance Ministry’s response to the legislative changes enacted in 2018. In February 2018, Finance Ministry representatives insisted that because the legislative changes would lead more disabled people to apply for pensions, pension benefits should be capped to 3,700 shekels a month instead of 4,000 shekels a month.

The rights organizations claim that this has resulted in disabled people receiving 600 million shekels less than what the 2018 law intended they receive. The Finance Ministry, on the other hand, contends that the gap is only 400 million shekels.

A disabled rights protest in Tel Aviv in 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani

At a press conference Thursday, a leader of the Disabled Becoming Panthers organization, Eyal Cohen, lamented that despite numerous attempts to persuade the finance ministry to “implement the legislation,” they were turned down and ignored.

Another protest leader, Hanan Tal, explained that lack of choice is driving participants to ramp up efforts, adding that “All we ask is that they implement the amendment that is on the books of the State of Israel.”

Ministry representatives explained that they are now preparing the state budget for the years 2021–2022 and that they intend to bring it to the government for approval. They also claim that the two installments not previously anchored in the state budget will be included, accounted for and paid retroactively as needed.

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