In addition to the support rally for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another protest took place on Wednesday—that of disabled activists and their supporters, against the Knesset's refusal to raise disability benefits after promising to do so.
After requesting from the High Court of Justice (HCJ) that the disability benefits in Israel be raised to NIS 4,000, the Knesset responded by telling the HCJ that handicap must first "prove that they cannot exist from NIS 2,342."
Many disabled people and their supporters found the Knesset's response outrageous, prompting them to demonstrate at Tel Aviv's Rokach-Namir junction during rush hour, near the demonstration in support of Netanyahu.
Disability advocate Alex Friedman stated, "Only two weeks ago, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon approached me personally and pledged to keep his promise to allocate NIS 4 billion," he said. "He took back his promise on the same day, during the Neto Family conference, so what happened now?"
The request came from the Knesset's legal advisor, Attorney Eyal Yanon. "The main argument in the petition that the disability allowance does not allow for a minimum of human existence with dignity is that the burden of basing it on the petitioners' lies," noted the Knesset's response, mentioning past rulings that found that the submitted data was not sufficient to determine that the current disability benefits were not enough to survive on, but that the range of social services provided in Israel must be taken into account and provide minimal subsistence."
The Knesset added in its response that the petitioners, made up of several disability organizations, did not meet the burden of proof, and that "the general data attached to the petition regarding the poverty rates do not meet the burden imposed on the petitioners in this matter."
In essence, the Knesset is trying to argue that the petitioners must prove that it is impossible to survive from a disability pension of NIS 2,342 together with the rest of the allowances and welfare services provided to them by the state. This is in opposition to the petitioners' claim that the disability benefits are insufficient and very low, and do not allow for a dignified existence. These figures were determined by the conclusions of the Zelekha Committee led by economist Yaron Zelekha, and the Simhon Committee led by economist Avi Simhon.
In the past, senior government officials, MKs and the prime minister himself have voiced their support of raising the disability benefits., including in a broad agreement among all the members of the various factions in the Knesset, to raise disability allowances to NIS 4,000.
"According to the Knesset's response to the High Court of Justice, the disabled public must prove how it is impossible to live from NIS 2,342 a month. They contradict themselves and humiliate the legislature," added Friedman.
Attorney Yehuda Ressler, who filed the petition on behalf of the disabled organizations, said, "The government continues its foot-dragging and ill-treatment for the handicapped public, although they had a month and a half to file a response to the High Court of Justice. Despite our opposition, the High Court of Justice agreed. "
Meretz faction chairman MK Ilan Gilon, who is himself disabled, said, "It is not clear which Knesset is behind this. Is it the Israeli Knesset, that only a month ago all the factions in the House reached an agreement to raise the disability pension?"
Gilon added, "What is the burden of proof the Knesset's legal advisor is requiring to show the it is impossible to live from this insulting amount? A stomach swollen with hunger? Disabled people who have to choose between medicine and slice of bread? they're wasting their time—we will raise the disability benefits, with the High Court of Justice or without the High Court of Justice, with Netanyahu or without Netanyahu."