Disabled IDF Vets Block Traffic as They Demand Due Benefits

Demonstrators hold second week of protest, calling on government to renew compensation cut off in 2002.

Disabled Israel Defense Forces veterans renewed their protests on Sunday for a second week outside of the defense establishment's headquarters in Tel Aviv.

The protesters, many of them in wheelchairs, blocked the roads in front of the rehabilitation branch of the defense headquarters as they called on the government to provide them with adequate assistance, financial compensation and treatment.

Demonstrators torched tires in the street as police forces tried to direct traffic. Traffic was blocked both in the city and at the entrance to the Ayalon Highway. At one point, protesters tried to move onto the Ayalon itself, but heeded the requests of police and returned to their demonstration base opposite the headquarters.

The protesters are planning to assemble this week next to the rehabilitation branch of Tel Hashomer Hospital. Since last Wednesday, they have congregated beside the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv and on Friday even performed Shabbat services outside of the building.

One of the demonstrators declared on Sunday that that the disabled veterans object to the "ignorance and abuse from the rehabilitation branch of the Defense Ministry."

Edan Cleiman, deputy chairman of the Tel Aviv district of the Disabled Veterans Organizations, told Haaretz: "We have no choice but to go out into the street.

"After a year-and-a-half of deliberations, we realize we have no partner in the rehabilitation branch. We don't want a single shekel in our pockets; we want the benefits taken away from us in 2002 be returned and we want to bring about organized legislation in the Knesset," he said.

The Defense Ministry prevents veterans from receiving what is due to them, he added.

"Today the gloves came off and we took to the street. Here there are heroes of Israel, fighters from Operation Cast Lead and Lebanon who were seriously wounded and who require a lawyer to gain what they deserve from the Defense Ministry. Something here is not right."

The disabled veterans' organization maintains its members have suffered humiliating treatment from the rehabilitation branch for quite some time, and that the government has not done enough to assist them in their search for employment.

The organization argues its claims are further justified by the fact that defense establishment employees behave parsimoniously in distributing compensation and squabble over the delivery of aid to the veterans.