Exclusive recordings obtained by Ynet taken during a Wednesday meeting with disabled protest representatives at the Government Quarter revealed extremely harsh language used by Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud) to refer to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Finance Ministry. Comment from the minister had not yet been received.
In the meeting—the first since the start of the current wave of protests—was attended by representatives of several disabled protest organizations, Minister Katz, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), Chairman of the Knesset's Labor and Welfare Committee Eli Alaluf, Director General of the National Insurance Institute Meir Shpigler and Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Avi Nissenkorn.
The meeting was convened due to the delay in submission of a governmental bill to raise disability benefits, brought about by disputes between the Ministries of Treasury and Welfare and the disabled organizations' protestations of the agreement.
During the meeting, Chairman of the Polio Patients Organization Yehuda Doron asked Katz to comment on the disability benefit freeze in 2003, when Netanyahu was in the Treasury.
Katz replied, "In 2003 (Netanyahu) didn't care about you. Even if you went on a struggle, he wouldn't care about you. Because in 2003 he nationalized pension funds, stopped bonds, there was an intifada, industry sucked and civilians weren't coming in here. He had to jumpstart the economy.
"He said there was an NIS 160 billion deficit in pension funds. He came in in the morning, went into the funds, threw out the managers, nationalized the funds, damaged 85 billion in the accrued rights of people who have paid and put in 85 billion more of his own.
"And the person fighting that war was me. I'm the only one who voted against them. When the opposition walked out I asked for an electronic vote, so everyone will see I was voting against them. He was the finance minister, Arik (Sharon) was (prime minister). I was there, I led all the labor unions. I led 700,000 people to a war-like struggle like you wouldn't believe."
Katz also commented on the 2019 budget, and claimed the Treasury had severely hamstrung his ministry on welfare, which is why he said many essential welfare services will be closing down starting March.
It remained unclear whether he meant Treasury Director-General Shai Babad or head of its Budgets Department Shaul Meridor, but he did clarify he was not referring to Kahlon, who was also present at the meeting.
"You know what (the Treasury) told me?" Katz said on the tape. "Because of that war, they decided to f**k me all the way. They took away my base, the entire budget's base, and said they were cutting it. I plan to start a war in March. I'm closing a day center for people with severe disabilities. I'm closing them because they took away my money.
"Places for treating people with autism? Closed. Community services for the blind? Closed. Shelters for battered women? Closed. Because they took my money. I'm announcing it, they will all be closed. Places for Holocaust survivors—shutting down, closing.
"In the meantime, my ministry is taking all of the flak. Because they're going to cut welfare more than they're going to cut elsewhere. Because we're rich, and there are one million and seven hundred thousand poor people. I'll do the job, believe me. I'll do it quietly. I'll feed them all, one by one, because they can't handle me. Because I'll rip them article by article by article and produce results."
Apart from Katz's remarks, the meeting did see an agreement reached regarding benefits, with Kahlon saying he intended to contact Netanyahu to ask him to increase the agreement's breadth by half a billion shekels—from NIS 4.2 billion to NIS 4.7 billion.
"Disabled Panthers" spokesman Naor Lavie said after the meeting, "It seems to have finally dawned on the ministers and the other people in the meeting a significant increase was in order for a disabled person in Israel to be able to live in dignity and not have to choose between medicine and food.
"The meeting's attendees also realized that the struggle will not conclude and will even be escalated to places the State of Israel has not since if a permanent settlement is not reached. The disabled have contingency plans for the struggle ahead and will not be silenced by a measly several hundred shekel addition."