The Threshold / Once a Gimmick, Greens Gain Traction

Profiling Israel's The Greens party. It's main principle is, in short, the environment. The Greens are committed to preserving nature in Israel and improving its residents' quality of life.

Party name: The Greens ("Hayerukim")

Ballot letters: Reish-Kuf

Founded: 1997

Top five:

1. Amir Meltzer, formerly deputy mayor of Metula

2. Dror Ezra, Herzliya city councilman

3. Raz Kinstlich, vice mayor of Rishon Letzion

4. Ram Price Siton, animal rights activist

5. Liron Pulitzer, Bar-Ilan University student union chairman

Main principles: In short, the environment. The Greens are committed to preserving nature in Israel and improving its residents' quality of life.

Among its goals: Expanding existing cities and building upward, rather than advancing new construction plans for open spaces; opening all the country's beaches to the public free of charge; reducing air pollution; developing public transportation, promoting energy efficiency; encouraging recycling, promoting environmental education and concern for animal rights.

The Greens' platform also calls for civil marriage and operating public transport on Shabbat.

From the chairman: Topping the list is Amir Meltzer, a lawyer and head of the opposition on the Metula city council.

"Something has changed over the past five years; people understand that it's impossible without green [issues]," says Meltzer. "Perhaps in the past the Greens were some sort of gimmick, but today it's a way of life."

The party is encouraged by two polls conducted by Dr. Mina Tzemach, from January and November, that showed support for the Greens approaching the electoral threshold.

"Everyone's always thinking about peace, about borders. The Greens aren't going into that. There are enough statesmen, but no party is focusing on green issues," says Meltzer. "Everyone already knows who's going to be prime minister; now's the time to invest in ourselves."

The campaign: Not surprisingly, the predominant color is green. The messages will be conveyed in an environmentally friendly manner - without billboards, ads or flyers. It's a matter of principle, but also a matter of money.

"We're conducting a campaign without any funding," explains Meltzer, who rented a small car at his own expense for the campaign and makes calls from his personal cell phone. The campaign will be conducted primarily through social media, public meetings and the few minutes of campaigning the party will be alloted on television and radio.

Problems: One major obstacle was seemingly removed when the Green Movement, headed by Prof. Alon Tal, joined up with Tzipi Livni's Hatnua list. Still, for a socially conscious party, the Greens have some problems. For example, its first seven candidates are men.

"No woman we approached wanted to be high on the list," insists Meltzer. "Believe me, we tried."

Aside from that, the party's repeated failure to get into the Knesset may discourage voters who fear "wasting" their vote.

Previous efforts: The party has run for Knesset four times. The closest it came to getting into parliament was in 2006, when it got 1.5 percent of the vote. The electoral threshold is 2 percent.