If an international environmental expert had overheard the discussion two weeks ago in the Defense Ministry's construction division, he would have been amazed. The heads of the ministry - which is up to its neck in Iran, Gaza and whether girls should be allowed to sing at army functions - were discussing with the Environmental Protection Ministry how to promote green construction in the Israel Defense Forces. The international expert would have been delighted to hear that this move is designed to mesh with the government's strategy of green growth that organizations like the OECD and United Nations have been calling for throughout the world.
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If that same expert had stuck around after the discussion, he would have quickly realized that this government is suffering from a serious case of split personality. As it pats the Environmental Protection Ministry on the back and encourages it to design an environmental future, it continues with its (not green ) business as usual.
A month ago the government agreed to prepare a plan for green growth to be led by the Environmental Protection Ministry. The plan would be based on planning and utilizing natural resources and encouraging employment in industries that develop environmental technology such as water conservation, energy and waste management. The plan encourages the consumption of environmentally friendly products and wants subsidies canceled for products that endanger the environment such as polluting fuels. The aim is to cut the nexus between economic growth and environmental harm so that increased output and productivity will not increasingly pollute and destroy natural resources.
The green-growth strategy has been adopted by the OECD and United Nations as a central tool for dealing with the world's severe environmental crisis, as well as the global economic crisis. While it's hard to charge these organizations with social radicalism, they stress the economic sense in developing technology for finding alternatives to oil, using raw materials more effectively, and conserving energy and water.
The same government that supposedly adopted this strategy will soon, in applying the Trajtenberg report's recommendations, approve decisions that entail the defeat of appropriate planning processes and a worrisome neglect of the environmental and health implications of economic activity. The government intends to allow a considerable increase in the number of gas stations and to lower demands in environmental protection at large infrastructure projects such as the expansion of Haifa Port. These actions are likely to very badly damage the marine environment and open spaces.
A few weeks ago, the government decided to set up 10 new communities in the Arad area, a typical example of wasting natural resources. The Netanyahu government's split personality in its attitude toward green growth fits in with its cognitive dissonance in all spheres. The government believes it can be "democratic" while shutting the mouths of political opponents, continue in the familiar format of a free market while declaring its commitment to social justice, and trample on the environment while still expecting something green to grow out of it.
The results of this policy were analyzed recently by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Environmental Protection Ministry in their "Sustainability 2030" study. The significance in continuing this policy, they say, is control by a neoliberal coalition that favors market forces that will overcome a political coalition that favors a mixture of growth, environmental protection and social sensitivity.
The neoliberal coalition will try to solve urgent problems only and refuse to allocate resources to the environment because "there are more important matters." It will not allow Israel to address pollution, overcrowding and the depletion of our natural resources.