While many, many of Israel’s seasoned environmental activists, scholars and sympathizers have already joined up with the Israel Green Movement, I have been asked more than once why Israel needs another Green Party. The question is flawed. Israel has, until now, had a Green Party in name only. Ha’aratz environmental writer Zafrir Rinat points this out in today’s Haaretz. It is important to note that Rinat has been on the environmental beat for more than ten years and he knows the Israeli environmental scene inside and out. Rinat writes of the Green Party (the other guys – not us):
To this day, the party lacks any democratic setup and its worldview is worryingly narrow. It almost ignores social and political aspects pertaining to Israeli society…
What most characterized the party to date has been its efficient use of the “green” label that has become a hot commodity in recent years. Also, it attributes many far-fetched environmental accomplishments to itself in order to gain public support.
However, most of these accomplishments in the field – reducing pollution and preventing construction in open areas – are the product of hard work by non-governmental organizations. With the exception of a few local achievements in Herzliya and Tel Aviv, the Greens have had almost no influence on environmental issues on the national level. The party can claim that the election of its members to the Knesset will help it gain influence, but the fact that it has already self-ascribed other environmental achievements does not help its political credit.
The article is here. While that says it quite clearly, I’ve conveyed to my friends a more personal interpretation of the situation:
Many of the Green Party founders and leaders were politicians looking for a cause. The Israel Green Movement is made up of leaders from the environmental movement who decided that politics would be the best way to move the environmental agenda forward. This is reflected in the platforms – the Green Party never has seemed to have a comprehensive world view. Bike paths and cell phone antennas (prominent issues in their past campaigns) are important, but we need economic and social policies as well – environmental problems arise from a world view and behaviors that harm both the environment and society. The Israel Green Movement has published a detailed vision and is working intensively on a detailed issue-oriented platform that encompass a social-environmental world view and relates to economic policy, the peace process, land use policy, education, social welfare and many other issues. Indeed, will be no niche-specific party.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t good people in the Israel Green Party – but as a whole, they never attracted the rank-and-file environmental activists because something is missing. They never attracted a wide constituency because they are a niche-specific party.
I think if those in the Green Party with a social-environmental world view compare their party with the Israel Green Movement, they will “come home” to us. I don’t want to see a split in the vote as it harms everyone interested in promoting social justice, economic equity and environmental progress, but continuing with a Green Party that doesn’t really “get it” will also not bring about the real changes we need in Israel (and the world).