Police are cracking down on street-blocking disabled protesters, following a wave of demonstrations blocking traffic around the country. For the first time since disabled Israelis started their road-blocking demonstrations calling for higher monthly stipends several months ago, police have ticketed protesters who blocked the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway on Monday.
Wheelchair-bound demonstrators had blocked the major artery for over an hour Monday when police began handing out tickets. The move comes as police announced Sunday that their tolerant attitude towards the protests was a thing of the past and that those blocking traffic would receive heavy fines.
"As part of the dialogue process, the police offered organizers alternative protest routes that do not create a serious disturbance to movement," said police spokeswoman Major General Merav Lapidot.
Disabled Israelis have been blocking off major thoroughfares in recent weeks as part of their campaign to raise the monthly stipends they receive from the National Insurance Institute from NIS 2,342 to the minimum wage of NIS 5,000. On Sunday, protesters blocked Tel Aviv's major Ayalon Highway as part of their ongoing campaign for higher stipends, distributing leaflets and enraging drivers heading to work after Israel's Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) holiday.
On Monday, the Knesset interrupted their summer recess to hold a special debate on the issue. A number of MKs from across the political spectrum called for the government to pass legislation that would increase the monthly payouts for disabled pensioners, and to adopt the Simhoni Report, which recommends a modest increase in their monthly stipends.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) announced at the debate that he intended to advance moves that raise monthly stipends to NIS 3,200, and NIS 4,000 in extreme cases, and to dedicate NIS 4 billion to the issue.
In addition, the Histadrut, Israel's largest labor union, announced on Sunday that they are embarking on a campaign in support of the disabled, which will include taking out ads in Israel's major news outlets.