Dear Green Movement-Meimad (התנועה הירוקה-מימד) friends, supporters, colleagues and interested readers.
The results have been counted. The Israeli electorate has decided. The Green Movement-Meimad will not be in the coming Knesset. We took approximately 1% of the national vote – apparently the largest party that did not pass the minimum threshold into the Knesset. The breakdown of the results by community can be found [in Hebrew] here, and more general results can be found [in English] here.
Some final post-election words of thanks and analysis from this volunteer blogmaster:
When I returned to Israel a year and a half ago after a period of study in the United States, I found a country dominated by two disturbing trends. One was the increased friction between Israeli Jews and Arabs and the increase in hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, and the continuing rise in consumerism and egoism (e.g. worrying exclusively about one’s own economic wellbeing) at the expense of a strong community identity and social welfare. To “soften my landing” in Israel I sought out all of those individuals who were still committed to a progressive vision of a Jewish and democratic state, to tolerance and pluralism, to a state that took responsibility for the education, environment, health care and social services of its citizens. I found that group of individuals – many came together in the Green Movement-Meimad.
To those individuals I want to say that it has been an honor and privilage to work with all of you. The fire of optimism, idealism and activism was impressive and contagious. In has been a pleasure to learn from the scholars and professionals who wrote the party’s vision and detailed platforms, as it was to canvass the streets to “spread the word” of the party. It was inspiring to read up on the numerous bloggers who were thinking so carefully about their decisions, and then who decided to go with the Green Movement-Meimad.
Finally, it was refreshing to have so much faith in such a wonderful group of candidates. I have no regrets due to the election results. The combination of Judaism, ecology and social-democracy brought together in this party can and may yet form the basis for a new progressive vision in Israel. And after the dismal performance of Meretz and Labor in this election, and the rise of both an ideologically vacuous center (Kadima) and a thuggish right (Israeli Beitenu), an alternative vision is needed now more than ever.
The Green Movement-Meimad offered a new vision to the Israeli public. That vision captured the imagination of thousands of activists and tens of thousands of voters. Party leaders and activists will surely be considering why we did not capture more votes in the coming weeks and months.
Some considerations will include:
1) Too little, too late? The Green Movement was established in the summer of 2008 and became a party only two months before the election. Did this give us proper time to convey our message to the public? We also operated on a tiny budget, so could not flood the public with our election propaganda.
2) Progressive politics are passé. Has a progressive Zionist vision for Israel become anachronistic? Is the Israeli public interested in setting aside sectarian, religious, and political differences in the interest of building a better nation? The stunning decline of the left (Meretz and Labor – together representing only 15-17 seats in the coming Knesset) may signal a failure to win the war of ideas among the Israeli public. If so, the Green Movement-Meimad wouldn’t have stood a chance (This is also why I don’t accept the “splitting the vote” argument – our votes would have likely been split between a number of parties. Our presence only enriched the political map – it didn’t “weaken the left”).
3) Politics of fear and hate. Are our seemingly intractable Israeli-Arab, Israeli-Palestinian and/or Israeli Jewish-Arab conflicts going to continue to drive people to the right – increasingly willing to sacrifice basic freedoms and equality in the face of increasingly violent and uncompromising enemies? If so, the center (between Jewish and Arab extremism) will continue to decay. The Green Movement-Meimad stood for unity, equality, coexistence, and pluralism. Can these ideas flourish is an environment of extremism and conflict, where the two extremes seem to feed each other’s strength?
4) Capitalism steams on. Will the current economic crises strengthen or weaken the Israeli social welfare state, and which direction will Israel continue to take – that of the European social welfare state or the US model of free market/economic oligarchy? Is the electorate against a social welfare state? Considering that Shas, Yahadut HaTorah and Chadash all did reasonably well and all have strong social policies (though for very different reasons) suggests that the social welfare state is not dead and that Israelis still care about public transportation, health care, education, and social services.
5) Sustaina – who? Can we successful articulate to the Israeli public our vision of a socially/economically/environmentally sustainable Israel? The fact that most voters could not differentiate between us and the Green Party means they couldn’t differentiate between a party with a broad social-environmental platform (us) and a party with a narrow, technocratic (barely) understanding of environmental issues . Certainly more work to be done here. But equally certain, wherever we managed to get the word out – through personal contact, home meetings and participation in panel discussions and lectures – we did quite well bringing in new voters.
These questions – and others – will need to be answered in order to understand if and how the Green Movement-Meimad can continue to function, improve civil society, educate, and – hopefully – run for the next elections.
With that, this blog will be going on a hiatus as this blogmaster has to return to his regular life and his paying job. I will be approving comments for those who want to continue the conversation. If there are Green Movement-Meimad supporters who are interested in running this blog in the meantime, please write me at daniel.orenstein – at – gmail.com.
Good luck and thank you for the opportunity to get this excited about politics. We’ll be back.