Injured IDF veterans block highway to Jerusalem, call for rehabilitative care reform

Dozens of injured IDF veterans blocked traffic at the entrance to Jerusalem on Wednesday as part of a protest calling on the government to approve plans to provide better care to injured former servicemen.

Before blocking Highway 1, protesters gathered outside the Knesset, with some battles with parliamentary security when they attempted to move barricades at the entrance to the Knesset, according to public broadcaster Kan.

The government’s approval of the Defense Department’s plan to improve treatment for injured veterans, called One Soul, is being held up by internal disputes over funding.

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“We cannot be lie to us, we will not stop protesting until the reform is fully implemented,” Idan Kliman, head of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization, told Channel 12.

Israeli veterans and disabled IDF soldiers protest outside the Knesset demanding better aid, financial and medical support, May 5, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90)

During the protest, protesters placed memorial candles above the bronze menorah outside the Knesset. Labor MP Omer Bar-Lev, a former IDF colonel, came to greet the crowd, but they interrupted him chanting: “It is only by force – and not by words – only by deeds that our struggle will be successful, ”the network said.

“All the fighters who are here have one common denominator: they stay awake at night,” protester Raphael Francia shouted outside the Knesset.

“I want to explain to Knesset members who sleep well at night: you are causing unforgivable injustice.”

“Minister of Finance, we are disabled IDF soldiers – it is thanks to us that you sit here and today you neglect us. Shame on you – we protected Israel and today you are kicking us, ”he added.

IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan, who set himself on fire in front of a Defense Ministry office on April 12, 2021 (screenshot: Channel 12)

The much-maligned Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation department came under scrutiny after a veteran with PTSD, Itzik Saidyan, who struggled to receive help from the ministry, s was set on fire outside the department’s offices in Petah Tikva last month. It remains in serious condition.

Another group of protesters gathered outside the rehabilitation department on Wednesday. Some of them poured water from jerry cans in solidarity with Saidyan, who poured a flammable liquid on his body before igniting. A Defense Ministry official confiscated the containers, according to Channel 12.

Saidyan’s sister, Leah, also spoke in protest, “My heart is with you. I really hope they will finally listen to us and help rehabilitate the people who are the reason we have this condition.

Plans to reform the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation department to provide better care for wounded veterans were halted this week as their political rivals Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz argued the source of funding for the NIS 350 million ($ 108 million) proposal.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (CL) and Prime Minister Benjamin (C) in the Knesset, Jerusalem, April 6, 2021 (Alex Kolomoisky / POOL / Flash90)

The cabinet was due to discuss the proposal last week, but it was postponed due to a scuffle within the government over the appointment of a justice minister. The discussion was postponed to Sunday, but was again delayed as the cabinet canceled its meeting out of respect for the 45 people who were killed in the Mount Meron disaster last week.

The prime minister’s office blamed the heist on the defense ministry, saying it should be responsible for providing at least NIS 75 million ($ 23 million) of program funding in 2021 and NIS 150 million ( $ 46 million) in 2022 from its existing funds. budget.

The Defense Ministry attacked the financial proposal, arguing that it had been promised an earmarked budget to implement the reform. A Defense Ministry official told Channel 12: “It’s not a plan, it’s a work in progress.”

“The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance lied to wounded IDF veterans and bear full responsibility for not adopting the proposal. We had discussions and made decisions, but Netanyahu and Katz chose instead to withdraw and flee, ”he said.

On April 22, 2021, Defense Ministry officials unveil new reforms for the Defense Headquarters Rehabilitation Department in Tel Aviv (Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)

The Rehabilitation Department has long been criticized, both by veterans groups and government polls, for having an overly complicated and difficult system for determining whether a candidate can be recognized as having suffered injuries caused by or during his military service. The process can, in some cases, take several years, during which time the applicant may not be eligible to receive the required assistance. This is considered especially true for veterans suffering from PTSD, who may be subject to polls by Department of Defense investigators looking for reasons why their conditions may not have been caused by their military service.

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