Defense Ministry, IDF veterans end feud

Defense Ministry, IDF ve

idf disabled veterans protest 248 88 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
idf disabled veterans protest 248 88
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation Department may soon become more transparent and accountable to the disabled army veterans it serves, if a deal reached on Monday between ministry director-general Pinhas Buchris and head of the Disabled IDF Veterans Association Haim Bar is approved by lawmakers. Brokered by Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson, the agreement was aimed at ending a string of demonstrations over the past week and a half by disabled army veterans who are increasingly disillusioned by reports of over-spending in the Defense Ministry coupled with cuts to their benefits. Under the deal reached on Monday, Buchris highlighted the moral debt owed by society to disabled IDF veterans and vowed to improve the rehabilitation programs offered to the former soldiers. He also promised to implement a series of changes to the Rehabilitation Department over the next year. In addition, the parties agreed that any significant changes to the rights or benefits of disabled veterans would first need the agreement of the Disabled IDF Veterans Association and that all Defense Ministry committee meetings relating to the veterans would now require the presence of a representative from the association. The agreement will be brought before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for approval in the coming months. Hasson, who was deputy director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) until 1999, also submitted a bill on Tuesday demanding that the head of the Rehabilitation Department appear at least twice a year before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to highlight its activities and budget allocations. The agreement reached on Monday followed a series of protests from Disabled IDF Veterans Association, who criticized the Defense Ministry for spending millions on trips abroad, but having no money for the disabled. Throughout meetings over the last weeks, the defense minister has stressed that the "State of Israel and the defense establishment have a moral obligation to disabled IDF veterans and we intend to completely live up to those obligations," according to a statement issued on Tuesday by the Defense Ministry's spokesman.