Israeli Finance Minister Announces Plan to Raise Disability Payments, Stealing Netanyahu's Thunder

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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Mar. 30, 2017.
Finance Minister Kahlon at a press conference in March. None of his cabinet colleagues will likely challenge his disability-payment hike because of its popularity.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon learned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended to announce an increase in stipends for Israel's disabled citizens – and beat him to the punch.

As a result, the Prime Minister’s Office canceled the event it had planned for publicizing the decision, to which a group of disabled people had been invited.

Senior Likud officials are now upset with Kahlon for preempting the prime minister. For their part, cabinet ministers are also angry at Kahlon for his decision to raise the payments, claiming that in essence he is presenting the government with a fait accompli without examining alternatives for the ministries’ budget surpluses. Still, none of the ministers intends to publicly oppose the treasury chief’s plan due to its importance and popularity.

The monthly payment for disabled individuals currently stands at 2,342 shekels ($640) – half of the minimum wage.

Kahlon announced on the eve of Passover that he would raise the benefits following the work of a committee he had appointed to examine the subject. Headed by former treasury accountant general Yaron Zelekha, the panel convened after the bill proposed by Meretz MK Ilan Gilon to raise the stipend to equal minimum wage passed its preliminary reading in December, despite coalition opposition.

Prof. Zelekha recommended a hike in the payments but said earlier this month that, while it will not reach the level of minimum wage, there will "be an increase that will bring about a real revolution for the disabled."

Netanyahu promised in early April that he would raise the allowance. “We raised soldiers’ wages, police wages, minimum wage and old-age allowances, and soon we will raise disability allowances,” the premier at a pre-Passover toast with other Likud members.

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