The plight of the disabled burst into the streets again on Tuesday as protesters demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Yerushalayim, where they said that a government plan to raise benefits was insufficient.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday a 4 billion-shekel plan to fund benefits for the severely disabled over the next four years. It calls for an increase in the pension for those with a medical disability of 90 percent or more to NIS 4,000 by January 2018. In addition, people with less than 90 percent disability who are deemed unable to work will see their pensions increased to NIS 3,200.
“As of January 2018, a disabled person recognized as someone who cannot work will not live below the poverty line,” PM Netanyahu’s office said. “The goal is to immediately change the existing situation in which a quarter of the disabled live below the poverty line.”
The higher rates would be linked to the minimum wage, whereas currently it is linked to the consumer price index, which rises slower than the minimum wage does, putting the disabled recipients at a disadvantage.
Although the proposed increase is substantial, it still falls short of the demands of disability activists, who have been advocating vociferously for a stipend equivalent to the minimum wage, or NIS 5,000 ($1,400) per month.
“The goal of the solution was to quench the flames and to suppress the struggle of the disabled,” said the chairwoman of the Israeli nonprofit Struggle for the Disabled, Naomi Moravia, adding that the government did not bother to consult the representatives of the disabled.
The demonstration on Tuesday turned ugly as two protesters apparently attempted to immolate themselves. Police intervened to halt them as they poured liquid from gasoline containers on themselves. They then attempted to set fire to a wheelchair-bound doll, but police put it out with fire extinguishers.
There were scuffles between the demonstrators and police. Traffic was also blocked along the main road leading into the capital, just after 8 p.m.