The state comptroller’s report on the climate crisis is a most impressive document, consisting of hundreds of pages of explanations and analyses of the sources of the crisis, the threats it creates and the way our recent governments have addressed this immense challenge. Its conclusion is unequivocal: “Israel is unprepared for the climate crisis.”
The specifics are shocking: “84 percent of the country’s public bodies have no plans at all for coping with the climate crisis, and Israel is one of the few countries in the world that is not operating on the basis of a budgeted and approved national plan.” The situation is even graver since Israel is located in a region of heightened climate crisis risk. Warming in our region has already surpassed the 1.5 degree Celsius target threshold and is increasing at a frightening rate.
However, the comptroller’s report is still lacking in one important respect. It is evident that its writers and editors adopted current State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman’s policy of distancing criticism from the centers of power and softening it with ambiguous wording. Rather than clearly telling the public just whose actions or inaction are endangering its health and welfare, the report only assigns responsibility to amorphous, collective entities like “Israel” and “the government.” Sometimes the report cites ministries that have done a poor job, but without naming the decision-makers, bureaucrats and elected officials who failed the public they are supposed to serve.
They have names. The transportation minister from 2009-2019 was Yisrael Katz. The failure to strengthen public transportation and reduce car travel, and to replace pollution-producing buses with electric buses is on him. The energy minister from 2015-2021 was Yuval Steinitz. He bears the blame for the failure to increase the rate of renewable energies in the electricity network. Last year only 6 percent of Israel’s electricity came from renewable sources. This figure was several times higher in other advanced countries.
The finance ministers who failed to advance reforms to address the climate crisis were Katz, Moshe Kahlon, Yair Lapid and Steinitz. Then there are the defense ministers who failed to note this most important threat of all or to prepare for it; the environment ministers who did not adequately warn the public and the government about the severity of the crisis and failed to properly tackle the treatment of waste. Senior officials in government ministries, the Electricity Authority, the Israel Land Authority, the Planning Administration and elsewhere also share in the responsibility.
But above them all is one man at whose doorstep the blame for this failure really lies. The man who headed Israel’s governments for the past 12 years, and who, aside from making occasional statements at international forums, did nothing to prepare Israel for the climate threat. The state comptroller’s report is incomplete without mentioning the name of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.