Netanyahu, Kahlon fight proxy war over the disabled

Kahlon, Netanyahu  photo: Flash 90

Moshe Kahlon wants the disabled pension linked to future rises in the minimum wage while Benjamin Netanyahu does not.

Strong pressure by the disabled persons' organization, frequent blocking of roads creating rush hour traffic jams, and emotional and painful interviews with activists during the holidays are having an effect. It is hard for the Israeli public to see people with 100% disabilities in wheelchairs conducting daily suicide missions on the roads. Disabled people have been struggling for many months, but people are especially sensitive during the holidays. "There must be a solution," everybody says, but why is there still no solution?

Today, after a four-day holiday, it appears that a proxy war is taking place. National Economic Council Professor Avi Simhon represents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's side, and Professor Yaron Zelekha represents the side of Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon. They are delineating the argument between the two sides. The problems have been known to everyone for a long time. Will the revised disabled pension be linked to future increases in the minimum wage? On behalf of Netanyahu, Simhon says no. On behalf of Kahlon, Zelekha says yes. Will the disabled pension be split into differentiated amounts according to the degree of disability? On behalf of Netanyahu, Simhon says no. On behalf of Kahlon, Zelekha says yes. Will the labor income of disabled people capable of working be deducted from their pension? On behalf of Netanyahu, Simhon says no. On behalf of Kahlon, Zelekha says yes.

You could hear the argument between Kahlon and Netanyahu taking place today through emissaries. For the minister of finance and the prime minister, this is not a political matter. They are on the same wavelength, and will reach some kind of compromise. But responses today came from Kahlon's side. Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) chairman Avi Nissenkorn began a billboard and newspaper advertisement campaign today in support of Zelekha's plan - another Kahlon proxy.

It will be pointed out that Nissenkorn has been supporting this position for several months. So what is the purpose of the billboard campaign during the 10 days of atonement? An advertising measure before threats of a strike? When it comes to Nissenkorn, people know that he has a personal connection with the daily difficulties of people with disabilities. He is dedicated and committed to the issue. At the same time, coordinating his steps with Kahlon, the money being poured out by the Histadrut on billboards and newspaper ads is providing work and income to graphic artists, photographers, and advertising space owners. And what about the disabled?

The disabled people's organizations are split into several groups. A few of them are fighting on the roads for raising the disabled people's pension to the full minimum wage of NIS 5,300 and future linkage to increases in the minimum wage, no distinctions between types of disabilities, and no deduction of labor income from the working disabled's allowances. Zelekha's plan, which has more significance for the disabled (in comparison with Simhon's plan) is unacceptable to some of them.

Nissenkorn is not joining the demonstrations themselves. He understands the demonstrations, but is not blocking roads. "Why should the Histadrut chairman join disabled people in blocking the roads? That's not reasonable," they're saying at the Histadrut. Nissenkorn will not block roads with his body.

Isn't this a strange stance? Only a few months ago, Nissenkorn joined the protest tent of workers in the south (Israel Chemicals (TASE: ICL: NYSE: ICL) and Dead Sea Bromine Group), and said that if the workers' problems in the southern factories were not solved, "We'll cause disruptions in the large cities, including blocking roads."

When Nissenkorn is involved, why does it always seem that he is committed to the disabled people's struggle, especially because it means to be on the minister of finance's side? There he is, side to side with Kahlon. God forbid that he appear to be against the minister.

The minister of finance has a third and final proxy - a slightly more complicated case. In this story, coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) represents a stance that is neither black nor white. On the one hand, at a conference during the Knesset recess before the holiday, he denounced in stentorian tones anyone who dared to criticize the prime minister on the issue of finding a solution for the disabled's struggle. On the other hand, Bitan agrees with the minister of finance, Zelekha, and Nissenkorn.

In early September, Nissenkorn summoned a broad meeting in the Histadrut building, with the presence of a number of disabled people's organizations. Bitan joined the meeting towards the end. On the same occasion, Bitan promised (again) to support Zelekha's conclusions, including a commitment to legislation that labor income would not be deducted from disabled people's pensions up to a level of NIS 5,300. Bitan is also committed to raising the pension to NIS 4,000, linking it to future increases in the minimum wage, and no distinctions between different levels of disability.

Will Kahlon meet the prime minister halfway in a compromise, or will the blocking of roads continue and the group of supports of his position grow until Netanyahu and Simhon are pulled in their direction? If we assume from the start that Netanyahu and Kahlon will find a midpoint between them, you can understand why the disabled are taking to the roads.

What do the disabled want? The disabled people's organizations are split into several groups. Some of them accept Zelekha's plan, others are willing to take what they are given, even if it is less. Others are fighting on the roads for raising the disabled people's allowance to the full minimum wage of NIS 5,300, linkage to future increases in the minimum wage, no distinctions between different types of disability, and no deduction of labor income from disabled people's allowances.

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on September 24, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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Kahlon, Netanyahu  photo: Flash 90
Kahlon, Netanyahu photo: Flash 90
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