Protests by Disabled Israelis Set to Intensify After Allowance Talks Hit Roadblock

After talks with government officials failed to result in raising the state's monthly disability allowance, the disabled rights movement vows to block more major highways

Disabled protesters demonstrating at the Azrieli junction on September 24, 2017.
Moti Milrod

A meeting of organizations representing the disabled with the head of the National Economic Council, Prof. Avi Simhon, did not result in any agreement on raising the monthly disability allowance.

According to sources present at the meeting, Simhon was not prepared to conduct any negotiations on increasing the budget for the raise proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is now 1.5 billion shekels ($423.7 million) for 2018. Under the proposal, the allowance of 50,000 disabled people would be raised to 4,000 shekels ($1,128), while many others would remain with their current allowance.

The organizations object to any proposal that doesn’t include a raise in the allowances of all the disabled in the coming year. Because the meeting yielded no results, the organizations are expected to intensify their protests in the coming days by blocking more roads. Because of the lethal attack Tuesday in Har Adar, the organizations did not stage road blockages during the past two days. There were, however, tickets issued to disabled persons who conducted an ad-hoc blockage of Route 1 on Tuesday.

Disabled protesters block the Ayalon highway on September 24, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The Necheh Lo Hatzi Ben Adam organization told Simhon it would not accept a differential increase that would leave some 100,000 disabled people with no increase at all. The organization demanded direct negotiations with the prime minister and the finance and social affairs ministers to remove the restrictions imposed by the Laron Law on how much a disabled person can earn and still get an allowance.

Alex Friedman, the initiator of the disabled protest and chairman of Necheh Lo Hatzi Ben Adam said, “The protest that I started two-and-a-half years ago was meant to correct an injustice, not to create another one. I expect the prime minister to respond to our demands, which are justified and moral. I hope we are close to resolving the distress of the disabled.”

On Thursday the heads of the organizations will meet with Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn, the heads of the large labor unions and the secretary of the Teachers Union to make a situational assessment and plan a join struggle to raise the allowances.

The disability allowance, which was 2,239 shekels in 2000, has risen only slightly, to 2,342 shekels, in 17 years. Israel has 880,000 disabled people, 50,000 of them in wheelchairs. Some 24,000 are legally blind and 15,000 are deaf. Some 190,000 people receive the highest possible disability allowance of 2,342 shekels.

The state begins reducing the allowance if the disabled person earns more than 2,750 shekels a month, and cancels it completely if his salary reaches 7,000 shekels a month. The rate of employment for the disabled in Israel is only 21 percent, compared to 34 percent among OECD countries, and 70 percent of disabled workers leave their jobs within a year.

Netanyahu’s proposal would begin cutting the allowance when a disabled person’s salary reaches 4,200 shekels. The Zelicha Committee that researched the issue recommend the cuts start when the salary reaches 5,300 shekels.