The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee convened Thursday morning in response to claims of maltreatment by the Defense Ministry of a severely wounded IDF veteran.
Yehuda Yitzhak HaYisraeli suffered serious injuries during the 2014 conflict with Hamas. Despite the severity of his wounds, HaYisraeli beat the odds and made tremendous inroads towards recovery.
While HaYisraeli, a married father of two, is medically able to leave the hospital, his condition requires significant modifications to his home. But his return home has been hampered by the Defense Ministry’s refusal to fund the modifications, owing to the location of HaYisraeli’s home beyond the Green Line.
Thursday’s meeting was held at the behest of committee member Amir Ohana (Likud). Ohana praised a fundraising campaign on behalf of HaYisraeli, but said the government must ultimately take responsibility for providing for those wounded in the line of duty.
“The wonderful Israeli has enlisted to help the wounded HaYisraeli,” Ohana said in a play on words. “But this is the government’s responsibility. We must do everything possible…to help those who sacrificed their lives for us or were severely injured. That many Israelis joined together to help is Israeli comradery at its finest – but we need to say it straight out, this is the government’s responsibility.”
A Defense Ministry official explained the ministry’s refusal to fund the renovations, saying that while the ministry itself was prepared to fund the modifications, bureaucratic regulations prevented them from spending state funds on an unauthorized housing unit.
“The Defense Ministry was prepared to fund it, but it [the expenditure] was not authorized by the [National Insurance Institute’s aid committee] because the [house] was never approved”.
MK Motti Yogev (Jewish Home) criticized the Defense Ministry’s argument, saying any bureaucratic problems holding back the funds were solvable.
“The defense establishment sent Yehuda into combat, he came back wounded – you knew how to deal with this in other cases, so solve the problem here. The Prime Minister and Defense Minister could solve this problem, but they rely on what officials and advisers in the field tell them. Sit down for two hours and figure out a solution.”
“The state knows how to solve building problems when it comes to the Palestinians,” Yogev added, “but for an IDF veteran they don’t do what they need to. It’s your moral responsibility to find a solution to return Yehuda HaYisraeli back to his home in Ofra.”
HaYisraeli’s mother also spoke at the committee hearing, making an emotional plea for assistance.
“I’m sitting here and suffering. We didn’t choose this. My son deserves to go home. My heart is breaking.”
“I call for a revolution in the laws,” she added. “The state sent him. I don’t want a house somewhere else. I want to live with my son in Ofra.”
Committee chairman Avi Dichter (Likud) added his own frustration with the bureaucratic deadlock.
“This is a paradox. Let’s say that there is a soldier named Avi Dichter who lives in Ashkelon, and a soldier named Avi Dichter who lives in Judea and Samaria. [Or] a 100,000 Avi Dichters in Ashkelon and 100,000 in Judea and Samaria. If, God forbid, one Avi Dichter is wounded, can you imagine that when there are 100,000 who are treated without any problem, and 100,000 others from Judea and Samaria face a hopeless situation? To call it absurd would be an understatement.”