Some 150 disabled people blocked the entrance to Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to curb an increase in their allowances. Earlier, the protesters had gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence.
A few demonstrators clashed with policemen and one of them threw a combustible liquid onto himself. Policemen wrested the bottle from his hands. Others tried to ignite a doll sitting in a wheelchair, but they were blocked by the police.
MKs Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) and Ilan Gilon (Meretz), both disabled themselves, were at the site.
“The demand made by this large community of a quarter of a million people with disabilities remains the same” said Gilon. “That is to make disability benefits equal to the minimum wage, across the board. No spin can change this and no political trick can deflect us from our purpose.”
Elharrar added that “it’s too bad the prime minister is waiting for someone to commit suicide before a just decision is made on the matter.”
The plan adopted by Netanyahu on Tuesday morning differs from the bill submitted last week by coalition chairman David Bitan, together with members of the opposition, which proposed raising disability allowances to at least 4,000 shekels a month ($1,137) over the next few years.
Netanyahu backtracked from this proposal, incorporating several previous suggestions into the plan. According to the new outline, 50,000 people with 90 percent disability or more will receive 4,000 shekels by January 2018.
Another 80,000 people with disabilities, who do not receive a supplement above the basic benefit, will get 3,200 shekels instead of the current rate of 2,342 shekels.
Netanyahu said that the benefits would be linked to the minimum wage, ensuring an annual increase. Benefits for working disabled people who earn less than 4,200 shekels would not be affected.
Currently, the state reduces the benefits of disabled people earning more than 2,750 shekels a month and completely cuts them off when income reaches 7,000 shekels.
The employment rate of disabled people in Israel, accordingly, is 21 percent, in contrast to an average rate of 34 percent in other OECD countries.
Moreover, 70 percent of working disabled people leave their jobs in under a year. A sum of 170 million shekels is to be invested in integrating people with disabilities into the work forces.