This weekend, at a conference, the Green Movement selected two co-chairpersons to lead it - a first for a local political party - apparently signaling in its choice an intention to address the ignored topic of the environmental implications of Israel's high population growth rate.
Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Racheli Tidhar Caner were named to jointly lead the party.
"The current population growth rate does not allow for sustainable development in Israel," Tal, an environmentalist, told conference participants, adding that he intends to put the country's high growth rate on the public agenda. Tal said that political parties should work toward eliminating allowances and other incentives designed to encourage families to have more children.
Tal warned that if the current birth rate continues, Israel will be incapable of providing its citizens with a decent standard of living, and of preserving its natural resources.
"We are subsidizing our own ecological suicide," he said. "If the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea reaches 20 to 30 million" - a matter of a few decades at the current rate of population growth - "there will be no nature left to preserve."
According to Tal, high birth rates perpetuate poverty. He said that a campaign to reduce the birth rate must be based on activities such as female empowerment. He also noted that some Green Movement leaders disagreed with his stance and were reluctant to change the commonly accepted notion of encouraging large families in Israel. According to a recent Environmental Protection Ministry report, Israel's population is growing at the rate of nearly 2 percent a year.
"Crowding is a stress factor vis-a-vis the environment, due to the decline in the open spaces, increased consumption of natural resources such as land and water, and an increase in the amount of waste being returned to the environment," the report's authors wrote.
After she and Tal were chosen, Tidhar Caner said the party's decision to select a chairman and chairwoman to lead it constituted the "implementation of the principle of gender equality."
In a press release, the party said it was following the model of Germany's Green Party, which has worked to increase the participation of women in politics.
"Only 18 percent of Knesset members are women, compared with countries like Switzerland and Finland in which women are in the majority in parliament," the statement explained.
The Green Movement failed to gain Knesset seats in its first election, in 2009, and its membership has declined since then, but it has gained prominence since its recent, successful campaign against the appointment of Yoav Galant as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.
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