Hundreds of Israeli army veterans clashed with Knesset guards and attempted to break through police barriers during a protest over Israel's mistreatment of disabled veterans, more than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to reform the current policy on veteran rehabilitation.
The protesters are demanding that the government approve a new plan for rehabilitation of disabled veterans today.
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The plight of disabled veterans in Israel has received increased public scrutiny after 26-year-old Itzik Saidian self-immolated on the eve of Israel's Memorial Day.
As the protest began, the head of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization Idan Kleiman said, "Not one of us went off to battle with a checkbook or a lawyer. We are demanding that a government meeting be called to find the means and the budget [to fund a rehabilitation program]." Kleiman added, "We are not moving from this spot until the reform is enacted. We know very well what needs to be done. Only we can determine what we need and what is the best thing for us."
The protesters attempted to force their way into the Knesset complex, but they were stopped by police and members of the Knesset Guard. After they failed to get over the barriers, the protesters moved toward Rabin street and attempted to block traffic.
About 300 protesters are currently blocking traffic on Route 1 at the entrance to Jerusalem.
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On Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters demonstrated in front of the Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation Department in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva, according to the ministry.
Last month, hundreds of protesters led by a group of disable military veterans blocked a major Tel Aviv highway, calling for urgent reform in the Defense Ministry's policy in the wake of the self-immolation of a disabled ex-soldier.
During the demonstration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization, and said that within two weeks he and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will present a proposal to reform the Defense Ministry's policies on disabled veterans.
Kleiman said after the meeting veterans are tired of "empty promises," and vowed to return to the streets "with greater force" if Netanyahu doesn't bring a proposal for a Knesset debate by the end of the month.