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Hebrew media review

Not out of the jam yet

As officials celebrate an agreement to end protests by road-blocking disabled activists, cracks already start to form in the supposed ‘historic’ deal

Disabled people and their supporters block the entrance to Jerusalem in protest of inadequate stipends, September 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Disabled people and their supporters block the entrance to Jerusalem in protest of inadequate stipends, September 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One of the most moving passages in the High Holidays liturgy, made famous by Leonard Cohen and others, asks solemnly who will suffer what horrible fates. Who by fire, who by water? Who by hunger and who by thirst? One question not asked by the medieval poet who composed the prayer (go figure) is who will have to fight for a living wage from the state, and who will have their commute ruined by traffic jams caused by protesters. And praying Jews probably didn’t see any need to stick it in themselves Saturday.

That’s probably thanks to a “historic” deal reached on the eve of the Day of Atonement seemingly answering the demands of disabled activists who say the state needs to pony up to making sure they can get by, ostensibly ending months of traffic-halting protests. But even as the deal is celebrated in Sunday’s papers, smudges in the luster start to appear.

Israel Hayom’s main headline reveals that “the agreement is in dispute,” reporting that some disabled activists not party to the deal to up state benefits say they will continue protesting.

“We weren’t invited to the table, and so this is nothing new,” the paper quotes a statement from a group called The Panthers, which it says has led the highway blocking protests and will continue to do so, even as early as Sunday.

Given the soapbox of a whole column in the paper, Panthers spokesman Naor Lavie says he understood that this was nothing more than a ploy to divide and conquer the protesters when their representative was not allowed into the negotiating room Thursday.

“After all the praise and bombastic statements that came out before the holiday, we found that we got in practice a shameful and miserable addition to the existing stipend, and it will only come to us in four increments until 2021. Thus, the full addition of the ‘celebratory’ deal, which we obviously oppose, will maybe come to fruition when the Tel Aviv light rail starts rolling,” he writes.

In Haaretz, Meirav Arlozorov breaks down what the increase will actually cost the state and asks if the state will actually be able to actually shell out the NIS 4 billion it calls for, to say nothing of possible increases, or if it is just politicians making promises they can’t keep.

“This has sent us back to the year 2000,” she quotes one senior treasury official saying. “They are deciding on huge allocation of NIS 4-6 billion via a political agreement, without asking the professionals. This is total chaos and signals, like two decades ago, that we are in the last days of Pompeii, There’s no limits, everything is allowed, you can make decisions from the hip without thinking about tomorrow. 2018 is a campaign year and it’s starting with economic adventurism. It’s gonna be hell here.”

There are none of the same questions in Yedioth Ahronoth, beyond its very questionable headline “No longer half a person” alongside a picture of a disabled man in a wheelchair. Instead, the paper is gung-ho about the deal, celebrating it as a “victory for the disabled.”

Reporter Telem Yahav makes no attempt to hide whose side he was on in the years-long fight over benefits, calling the campaign “the most important and significant social battle here in the last decade,” more so than the massive cottage cheese and housing protests that brought much of the country to a standstill in 2011.

“Who would have thought that a group of a few dozen disabled people, some with severe disabilities, would manage to squeeze the unimaginable figure of NIS 4.2 billion from the state budget, for the most deserving cause there is,” he writes breathlessly.

Yahav even seems to outdo fellow columnist Alex Friedman in excitement, and Friedman was the one who started the protest in 2015, declaring himself “not half a man,” hence the headline. Friedman goes so far as to credit the motto with helping him win in the end.

“The disabled, and really any other group, have never received such a significant bump in their budget. Beyond the economic aspect, the saying ‘Disabled, not half a man,’ penetrated closed rooms. For the first time they see the disabled as people who are able to fight for their rights, and they have rights — firstly the right to live respectably,” he writes.

With Yom Kippur being the biggest news vacuum of the year, beyond the protest the papers mostly fill their pages with a dog’s breakfast of various bric-a-brac.

That’s not to say none of it is important. Haaretz leads off with a story pointing to a loophole that can keep some kids who are victims of sexual assault from getting counseling, since both parents need to sign off, even if one of the parents is the perpetrator.

(The paper also runs an op-ed by troll extraordinaire Rogel Alpher in which he contends that Israeli and Jewish holidays are akin to terror, and really that’s all one needs to know about that. Yes, there are a lot and it gets old, but unless you are a delicious chicken, it’s not quite the same.)

Israel Hayom handicaps (no pun intended, swear) several top appointments expected among the IDF brass. The paper says the most important appointment will be for Military Intelligence head, which Gen. Nitzan Alon the “natural choice,” though his time as the commander of the area including the West Bank has made him enemy No. 1 of the settlers.

“His last candidacy was sunk by pressure from actors from the right,” the paper reports. “Alon is more experienced and senior than any other candidate, but there’s doubt whether he can be nominated at this time.”

Yedioth Ahronoth runs an expose on Joint List MK Abd Al Hakeem Haj Yahya, who was spotted visiting a man who had just gotten out of prison after serving 12 years for helping Hamas prepare explosives.

The paper quotes the MK saying he doesn’t think there was anything wrong with the visit. “He paid his debt to society,” he’s quoted saying.

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