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I can still remember very well the loneliness of the long distance runner: Every time an environmental issue came up on the government's agenda the naive minister found himself alone.

One time the prime minister summoned his environment minister and, ruddy with anger, demanded to know if the rumor was true that a major construction project had been stopped in Hadera because of a "butterfly landing strip." The minister replied that he hadn't the slightest idea what the prime minister was talking about, though butterflies too need a place to land and live.

Whereas now, within one month, everyone has become green. Through the smoggy air it is already possible to see elections on the horizon, and even those who were jaundiced yellow against any green issue are sprouting leaves like Aaron's rod. Until recently they hadn't even known they were like that - disciples and well-wishers of the environment. And we didn't know they were like that either.

Meretz has announced that it is dropping an agenda and adopting an agenda, and that henceforth it will "promote environmental quality as a central issue." Meretz, of all parties, was known as a green party before the color faded. Thus party chairman Yossi Beilin's announcement must be seen as a renewed commitment, which is always greeted warmly like any manifestation of recycling.

Not only Meretz is positioning itself at the Kfar Hayarok green junction in an attempt to hitch a ride - so is Likud. The media have reported in amazement on opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who in contrast to his habitual frenzy, sat still for five hours listening to the experts. Netanyahu, who opened the symposium like a gifted student, summed it up like a teacher: "If by mistake you find yourself in some creek, there's no knowing how you'll get out."

And Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz exhorted his party not to lag behind and miss the boat. President Shimon Peres, also among the prophets of the apocalypse, made use of his global vision. At the opening of the Knesset's winter session he revealed that global warming is no less dangerous than international terror. One can state with satisfaction that our battered environment has never had better days than these. As it is perishing it is becoming fashionable.

The new greens should really be warned in time: The ecological rescue operation is much harder work than it seems. This isn't an annual outing in the Big Green Car from the children's song that fills up with voters and travels far. This isn't flitting among flowers to distribute pollen. Sustainable development costs a bundle and puts people like Peres and Netanyahu, like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on a collision course with some of their best friends and benefactors. Among these benevolent buddies are the worst polluters: poisoners of water, defilers of air and destroyers of soil, as well as erectors of cellular antennae and people who do with the earth and general welfare whatever their evil imaginations conceive.

U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are heating up in a greenhouse because they have too many partners among the polluters. When "greens" - billionaires - rustle their green stuff in the corrupt dialogue between wealth and government, wealth wins. Let's wait for the first test of our leaders and see how they face up to disgruntled donors; let's wait for the next budget debate and see how they have strengthened the deterrent force and enforcement at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which can barely protect itself.

After Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize and after the candidates for the U.S. presidency - Republicans as well as Democrats - saw the green light, and after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel partook of this deep green, eyes are opening here too. For 60 years, in nearly every conflict between rampant development and measured preservation, economic interests have had the upper hand. We are still building a state, and we are already destroying it. During the next 60 years, at least, environmental interests must prevail lest the land devour its inhabitants, some by a cup of poison and some by a dose of radiation.