Karl Marx defined a communist as being anyone who is a member of the communist party, a definition that can also be used to describe anyone who considers himself to be an environmentalist. But in Israel, experience shows that the green parties' environmentalism is sheer pretension, especially if compared to the green parties in Europe, which have become significant social and political factors with broad worldviews on many issues.
In Israel there are two organizations that consider themselves to be environmental parties. One is simply called Green Israel. It is still too early to comment on this group, which is currently organizing for the elections, but the older Green Party is a different story. This party, headed by Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Peer Visner, has existed for 10 years.
The two main characteristics, in recent years, of the green parties in Europe are their democratic institutionalism and their broad political platforms. However, the local Green Party is totally different.
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. On the issue of peace talks, the party promises to "advance the peace process with our neighbors and the Arab world through peace and solidarity." Not exactly a political manifesto.
The party's activists are devoted to environmental issues but the party lacks the intellectualism that is usually part and parcel of parties sharing the same environmental-social orientation in Europe. Also, it is bereft of any significant social-minded activists. Meanwhile, it is best known for placing celebrities high on its list.
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.
There might not be a place for a Green Party in Israel, and a social-liberal party that supports environmental issues may suffice. But if an environmental party is deemed necessary, it has to be different than the one that exists. It should combine environmental issues with social ones and be able to deal with a broad range of aspects of Israeli society, like promoting peace talks and human rights as well as helping create a society that knows how to use its natural resources properly.
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