Disabled protest leader: 'Kahlon will be the death of us'
Leaders of the disabled protest demand original agreement with them—linking benefits to average wage—be upheld; 'Finance minister, Treasury's Budget Department will be the death of us,' says one, adding, 'If benefits were linked, like ministers linked their own wages, we wouldn't be here today.'
Two of the heads of disabled protest organizations decried the government's recent actions regarding raising their benefits, with Welfare Minister Haim Katz claiming Monday that the Finance Ministry was "deceiving the disabled" when it came to raising benefits.
Chairperson of the "Disabled Protest Headquarters" Naomi Moravia told Ynet in an interview that, "There are very severe problems here when it comes to both decision making and upholding agreements."
"The government cannot keep its word on a simple agreement," she accused. "The finance minister and the (Treasury's) Budgets Department will be the death of the disabled, literally. They don't seem to be able to comprehend the benefits are killing us."
"If the benefits were linked—just as the ministers have just linked their own wages to the average wage—had the benefits been linked since 2003, we would not be where we are today," Moravia added.
The chairperson did lend her support to Welfare Minister Katz. "From the struggle's outset he stood his ground and said, 'The disabled deserve minimum wage-level benefits.' The Treasury and the prime minister have cut deals with us, but failed to live up to them," she said.
Chairman of the Polio Patients' Organization Doron Yehuda has been holding protest vigils opposite Katz's home. Unlike Moravia, Yehuda claimed it was the welfare minister who should be looking out of the disabled public and fighting for it.
"The finance minister's job is to foot the bill. The person who needs to take care of the data, give the funds to the disabled and make sure they're divvied up right is the labor and welfare minister," he declared.
"We met with Haim Katz last night. He appeared when we were (demonstrating) in his home and told us there is going to a discussion on the benefits (in the Knesset—ed) Wednesday, and we'll be there," Yehuda said. "I call upon the prime minister to step up on this eleventh hour, and tell the welfare and finance ministers he agrees the disabled should be receiving minimum wage-level benefits."
Concluding the discussion, Moravia said she expected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to instruct the Treasury's Budgets Department to pass the agreement in its original promulgation. "They should link benefits to the average wage, anchor future increments—but do them right, in 2020 and not 2021—and stop playing around with us. The agreement is there, they should uphold it," she said.
Katz maintained Monday that Treasury Director-General Shai Babad notified him Sunday that the third and fourth increments to raise benefits and link them with the average wage will not be part of the governmental bill on the matter, in contravention of the agreement reached with disabled protest organizations in September 2017.
The Finance Ministry commented, "As part of approving the state's 2019 budget this past Thursday, the government reached a decision to increase disability benefits by NIS 2.15 billion. The government's decision constitutes the first official and binding decision to mention specific sums, and to include earmarking the requisite budgets."