Go Green!

Haim Watzman

    <em>Eran Ben-Yemini of TY-Meimad</em>
Eran Ben-Yemini of TY-Meimad
Two months ago, I announced that I’d decided to vote for the Green Movement. I urged the Greens to form a joint slate with MK Michael Melchior’s Meimad slate—and they did. And since then, silence. Where the hell have I been?

Skeptical journalist that I am, I’ve been doubting my decision. I’ve been looking for the holes in my arguments. I’ve been agonizing. In the wake of the Gaza war, shouldn’t security issues take precedence? What if the Green Movement-Meimad doesn’t get over the 2 percent threshold? And if they do, what can a tiny party accomplish?

But now, with the election coming up next Tuesday, I’ve made my decision. Again. And it’s to vote for the only party in the race that I can be enthusiastic about. The only party that offers a new way of looking at the weighty issues that Israel will face in the years before us, the only party that offers a comprehensive, long-term vision of Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state that is part of the local and global community of nations.

A friend told me the other day: “Environmental issues are important, but given the perils Israel faces, should the environment be the single issue you vote for?” A brief perusal of the movement’s platform….

Read the rest on Jewcy–Comment there or here.

22 thoughts on “Go Green!”

  1. How are they polling these days? I have a pretty good track record of voting for parties who don’t make the threshold – however I’ve always voted with my conscience. Meimad-Green Movement is a bit to the left for me but the fact that they have integrity and a proactive agenda outweighs this…yeah, so I’m voting for them as well….I hope others do too.

  2. you ignore but one thing: lieberman. because of his strength, he is the most dangerous politician we have ever had in israel, and we cannot, must not risk losing even one liberal vote against this rising tide of nationalism! the green party, with its ridiculous broomstick-ad, may stand for all the causes you said, but it is presenting itself as a one-issue party, and a currently very irrelevant issue at that.

    in this time of national peril (and be sure, it is a great peril) we must muster all our power and stand behind the liberal left (meretz, hadash, perhaps labor) and give them clout in the next knesset against the fascists in our midst!

    not a single vote should go anywhere else!

  3. You can choose to vote for Meretz, Labor, or Hadash with the reasoning that one more seat for them may me one less for Lieberman, but when the next elections role around, Lieberman will be even stronger because those parties are simply not capable of “defeating” him because they simply don’t offer anything new and, although it is is terrifying, Lieberman’s platform is in many ways “new.”

  4. I respectfully disagree with Alon and am appreciative that Haim has become an eloquent spokesperson for the hope and vision represented by the Green Movement-Meimad.

    Alon seems to be proposing not voting for a so-called one issue party (which they are not for anyone who takes a moment to look at their website, their endorsements, their leadership), but rather to vote on the basis of another single issue – anti-Leiberman.

    The Green Movement-Meimad is FOR many things – quality education, environment, energy independence, health care, religious pluralism and Arab-Jewish coexistance, among other things.

    While we absolutely oppose Leiberman’s “loyalty” platform and his talk-tough policies, we believe the best way to combat it is to offer Israel a new vision based on social, economic and environnmental sustainability.

    Anyway, Alon is propagating the argument that better to go with the mediocrity you are sure about rather than aspiring higher. The Green Movement-Meimad has been sweeping mock elections among university, college and high school students. We are very popular among new immigrants from Europe/North America (e.g. idealism immigrants). Have we lost the hope and idealism that they have?

    Vote FOR something this election, not against something else.

  5. Thanks for this eloquent analysis of the political reality, and your own fears and doubts Haim. I agree that there needs to be a vote for change: change for environmental protection, change for real and compassionate justice, change toward real and lasting peace with Israel’s neighbours….and I also agree with the comment above that Lieberman is a real threat to the emotional health of this Country.

    Surely it will be a test of the Green Movement Meimad’s candidates and hopefully MK’s that they will help to shape opposition to Liberman’s lunacy and extremism: Alon Tal, Ben Yemimy , Melchior and the other great visionaries have their work cut out from tuesday onwards – we have to get behind them (and ironically those other politicians that get elected who have any hope in their hearts) and support change, and make a stand against these undemocratic forces which seek to destabilise this already precarious place.

  6. i think it’s slightly unrealistic, and very telling, to say the best way to fight lieberman is by, well, offering “a new vision based on social, economic and environmental sustainability.”

    polls have shown that by a huge margin what israelis care about most this election is — you guessed it — security! and i’m sorry to break it to ya, but you know where environment came on the list? it wasn’t even on it.

    i’m sure that polls don’t capture the young vote, where you’d expect to garner more votes for the greens. but in tel-aviv university, hebrew university, and ben gurion university mock-elections, meretz was way over the greens. and in the high-schools lieberman is the one doing the sweeping, not rabbi melchior.

    it is true that melchior has supported jewish-arab peace, etc. but when he tried to speak to high-schoolers recently about this noble cause, all the nice kids did was shout back at him : “death to the arabs!”

    that is what i’m voting against. you say israelis shouldn’t vote against something. i say that voting against a grave danger to our future is voting FOR our future.

    and i say that voting for a party whose overwhelmingly main purpose is “environmental sustainability,” a party whose voice on other issues is hardly heard, and a party that probably won’t get in, is voting FOR something people in scandinavia might see as a necessity. it is voting FOR a luxury we can’t afford right now, and AGAINST the effort to counter a serious challenge, which is widely underestimated, by the greens and many others.

    now, i’m not keen on any of the parties and their platforms. but please note the order you gave to the “many things” the greens support. please note the rise of hateful nationalism we face, as well as external threats. if you do so seriously, you might realize why voting green could be a just cause, but is at this time dangerously oblivious.

  7. I think conern about Lieberman is misplaced. There is no possibility of his program of being implemented even if he gets a lot of seats in the Knesset.
    I (as someone who is on what most of you would consider to be the “Far Right” planning to vote for the Ihud HaLeumi-National Union) don’t like or trust Lieberman. His party is not-democratically run and is based on a single strongman who picks the list competing for the Knesset. It wouldn’t suprise me if the party broke up into different factions with some defecting to the Left–this has happened to other surprise parties run by strong-men such as Rafael Eitan’s Tzomet in 1992 where , although the party ran on a “Right-wing” platform, 2 MK’s were openly bribed to junp to the Left and ended up becoming the crtical votes for the Oslo Agreements. Another example is Rafi Eitan’s (different person) Pensioner’s Party which also splintered.

    Having said this, Israel Harel wrote a good opinion column in Ha’aretz this week saying that although he also doesn’t agree with Lieberman’s positions, the support he is drawing (much from former supporters of Leftist parties) is an understandable reaction to the across-the-board deterioration we are seeing for years while Israel has been dominated by the “peace-camp” clique. Not only has there been years of rocket-fire in the south, but also degeneration in the state’s education system, the blindness and bias of the Supreme Court, the impotence of the police manifested in growing violence of organized crime and their disgraceful flight from the scene of an Arab riot in Akko on Yom Kippur where they simply abandoned the Jewish population to a mob that was destroying property and threatening Jews with physical harm. Add to this the deterioration of Israel’ s international standing, the damaging of relations with Turkey brought about by a war that could have been avoided if the Leftist clique had not forced the destruction of Gush Katif and the rapid spread of genocidal antisemitic propaganda encouraged by an Israeli leadership that broadcasts weakness and loss of belief in justice of Zionism.

    I find it interesting this time that there are numerous Leftist splinter parties including TWO Green Parties, but none that I am aware of on the Right. This is unprecendented for the Right to be united this way. Haim is apparently not conerned that his vote might be wasted if his party does not cross the electoral threshold.
    All of this is an indication of apathy and disillusionment among Israeli voters, particularly those on the Left. The Left investing everything they had on the so-called “Peace Process” for the last 15 years, letting everything else drift. Now that the “peace process” is dead according to everybody inside and outside of Israel, they have lost much of their credibility. Things have gone so far as for the official editorial of Leftists Ha’aretz newspaper to tell their readers NOT to vote for MERETZ which is the party they supported for years. They made no alternate recommendation, so I assume they have no problem with people staying at home.

    Israel is ripe for a political renewal, for new people with new ideas for real reform, although people keep telling me that, unlike in the US, there is no chance of such a thing because there is no history of grassroots movements here and the existing parties have a stranglehold on the money that flows into the political system.

  8. Y, thank you for proving my point. your comment goes to show that lieberman is cause for great concern, for if an irredentist/colonialist/transferist/theocratic party and its supporters see no danger, then i know there is an unholy alliance of nationalism (a word you surely find flattering) and messianism. i suggest you picture what this country would look like if all your idols were one day truly in power (and try and do it with a bit of healthy self-skepticism, will ya?).

  9. In 2000, 13 Arab Israeli citizens were shot dead by order of an Israeli commander. Said commander was not suspended pending inqury. Several years later, an inquest concluded that too much time had elapsed to bring charges, possible evidence having decayed.

    If you cannot see what these events have done to the conception of Justice in Israel, I am forced to conclude that racism is indeed rampet in your land. Y. Ben-David, above, condemns the authorities for running, leaving Jews unprotected in an Arab riot. What of the other side? Is there an other side?

  10. It seems that most of your (Alon) dislike is that we are ‘yet another party drawing votes from Meretz and Labor’ and that you don’t like our commercials (neither did I).

    But I don’t think anything you argue for presents a serious counterweight to growing Leibermanism. Whatever Labor and Meretz have been doing over the past ten years while this phenomenon was rising obviously hasn’t worked (maybe Chadash has something to offer, but I prefer to remain in the Zionist world). If you want to keep embracing that whatever potential you think Labor/Meretz have, I join you in hoping they’ll start to work their magic after the next election.

    Your arguments justify exactly the message of the Green Movement-Meimad. The complete focus on the security issue (which is generally shallow anyway) has brought us to a state where we ignore all other problems. We allow our enemies to set our agenda and we forget that in the end of the day, we want a country that is worth living in and defending. If there had been a Green Movement-Meimad in Knesset 20 years ago, would Israel’s water shortage be where it is now? Would our children’s academic performance sunken to where it is now? Would our brain-drain be as serious as it is? And where will we be in 20 years with no party that seriously thinks over the long term?

    The Green Movement-Meimad offers people a new paradigm, based on the lessons we learned from environmental campaigns, but have much wider implications regarding society and values in general. Participatory democracy, separation of money and politics, transparancy, respect for the law and enforcement, clean politics, thinking in the long term (the vision statement explains this more in depth). Our list and supporters are orthodox and reform, Jewish and Arab, men and women. They came because they feel at home there – not because we dole out benefits. Our security platform is similar to the left-center parties – and we will be active in this regard.

    We think that this new approach will both attract voters and will serve to unify society rather than divide – if not in these elections, then in the next – we are in this for the long haul.

    A last note about a recent election panel in Haifa: The Green-Meimad representative got the biggest round of applause (perhaps even with the Ichud HaLeumi) for having excited the crowd of about 100 to think about what Israel could be. The Meretz, Likud and Kadima representatives were mostly laughed at (Labor was decent but boring). Most of the action was on the extreme right – the big “pitzul” with four parties trying out do each other by proving who is going to be harder on the Arabs in Israel and on the Palestinians (Israel Beitenu, Ichud HaLeumi, Bayit HaYehudi, Likud). So I don’t know why you don’t think that there aren’t plenty of splits on the right.

    I really recommend you read the platform of the party – you’ll probably agree with 95% of it.

  11. daniel, please don’t reply like a glib politician by smoothly ignoring the key issues i raise. but i will respond to yours.
    i respect you for caring about society, but unlike you (as i see from your blog) i am not representing any party and in fact i can’t stand any of them.

    i don’t hold any of the parties in much esteem at all. i think meretz is weak, i think labor has sold itself out and lost its principles, and while hadash is tougher and more ideological –and dov chenin is a very strong legislator on the enviro –, i think their views are at times too unrealistic. i am very dismayed by politics in israel.

    but you know what? i see your party’s slogan is “chinuch, sviva” — education, environment; i see your party’s platform putting peace and security quite a bit down, and i see equality for arabs — what i’m trying to tell you is going to be THE big issue if lieberman isn’t stopped — right at the bottom; and i see — this is the biggest joke — environment is the only EXISTENTIAL (no less) crisis for israel.

    i mean, c’mon man! let me repeat this: we must realize that when such a corrupt leader, with such brutal policies ( believe me, we haven’t seen half of it) is going to make such huge gains, then we cannot risk losing votes or becoming a miniscule fractured left. we must not let other issues divert our effort and attention. as i said (and you ignored), environment is hardly an issue anymore for the vast majority of israelis. you could, and should have spent your money and time persuading them on much more critical things. Environment is important, but it can be left to a more tranquil time. There’s a bigger problem at stake – bigger than our dirty beaches and even bigger than our water crisis (which could soon be alleviated by desalination.)

    and three more points:

    1.how do you differ so greatly from meretz’s enviro policty? not to mention the other green party? don’t your leaders realize this green business could unite the three of you? or is it political bickering after all?
    2. israel is facing a recession, rising unemployment, factories in distress, and is one of the smallest countries in the world which contributes nothing to carbon emissions. and you want to carry out a “green technology revolution”? at a time like this? when america itself can’t get it right? please, man.

    and lastly, i am an atheist, and can’t vote for a party that tells me that “religious customs are not only a relgious mitzvah, but a social and moral value as well.” a rabbi leading a political party? what happened to religion and state? not my cup of tea, as ehud barak’s been saying lately.

  12. Hello Haim,
    Could you perhaps elaborate on the “Jewish democratic state” concept? How do you propose to maintain that when the demographic going gets tough, even not counting the W.B and Gaza Strip Palestinians? You might say that’s too far down the road, maybe a 100 years (or more) from now, but, I would like to see you do a mental exercise about this hypothetical situation. How would you propose to maintain the so-called “Jewish and democratic” nature of Israel?

  13. Blogger from Lebanon — That’s a big question that requires more than just a comment, and if you peruse the posts on this blog you’ll find a lot that relates to it. But, briefly, the state’s Jewish character has to be a consequence of the state having a large Jewish majority–which is why we here at SoJo think the two-state solution is vital to Israel’s future. Your own country is a textbook case of how a society can decay when changing demographics are not accommodated by the political structure. We want to avoid that here.

  14. Alon,

    Sorry you thought I was being glib. Perhaps you are so disillusioned with Israeli politics that you can’t that we’re actually quite sincere and believe what I wrote. I am neither a politician nor do I have any vested interests (although I do have friends running for office).

    I do understand your bottom line: Leiberman(ism) is Israel’s biggest threat. Your argument is that the best response is that the left must unite under the three existing parties to fight his fascism (though you are admittedly not keen on any of them).

    I can only repeat: The Greens-Meimad are pushing a different vision – one that you don’t agree with – as the best way of combatting multiple ills (the intolerance and racism of Leiberman et al included) in Israeli society. Our agenda is much broader than you portray – perhaps due to a poor commercial, improper ordering of our goals and your narrow take on the green agenda.

    So be it. I can assure you that on every front where Leiberman and his ideas surface, the Green Movement-Meimad will be in the front ranks opposing him (in many venues we already have been). But the alternatives – Meretz and Labor – had their moment. If there weren’t more exciting alternatives (in my eyes), I would also go with one of them.

    There are many other points to make (about the potential for Israel to become a global leader of green technologies, the importance of a Judaism in formulating our ethical code, whether or not we have other crises worthy of political representation) but we can continue that elsewhere at a different time.

    Thank you for your insights (I’m being honest, not “glib”) and good luck.

  15. Haim,

    This outsider is very worried. I would affirm with David Grossman that a person is the focus of value and protection. No matter how many Arabs are ultimately placed in a Palestinian State, some Arabs will remain in Israel, being citizens therein–else, in your homeland, occupation will continue. To focus on the creation of an Arab State while ignoring those Arabs born in your land is self deciet.

    The only way I see to retain the character of a Jewish State is to act for internal justice now and forever, in the spirit, using the texts, of Diaspora since Temple’s last raising. If these ideas can enter your political and legal culture, then, regardless of later demographics, you will have preserved. A very path of painful possibility, I realize–but, I ask, how do you otherwise distinguish between the deportation of unwanted race and the inherant nationalism behind the logic of a two state solution.

    I would not consider a one state solution; but that is far different than imagining Israeli Arabs will cease to exist. You seem worried about a bifurcating social structure–so the Lebanon reference; I claim the best, perhaps only, way to avoid this is is to individualize Israeli justice now: approach your Arab citizens. Or deport them. This is the terror of living other. A two state solution buys time to augment development in both lands. And BOTH lands need development. Time we all need. If it can be divorced from slaughter.

    I do not write for a reply. Just to present the logic.

  16. Leiberman is frightening. But all the old left parties- including Meretz- have completely failed in atracting new groups of voters.

    In the long run, the left needs parties like Tnuah-Yeruka-Meimad which can reach out to traditional voters (and most polls show that the vast majority of Israelis are neither Orthodox or Secular rather traditional) and the many young voters who basically no longer are interested in the peace process as much as their elders- mostly because they’ve been disapointed by it too many times (and it doesn’t really matter whose fault that is).

    Kobi Oz, a well known singer just came out for Tnuah-Yeruka-Meimad. What’s interesting is his reasoning- both supporting green issues and wanting more Jewish content in education and in general without religious coercion. I think he speaks for a lot of young people.

    In the seventies, Shulamit Aloni (who until then was a member of the Labor Party) understood that voters were no longer interested in the degrees of Socialism of the various leftist parties, founded Ratz, which supported a new list of issues ignoring old leftist arguments. Ratz started small, but eventually evolved into decent size Meretz. Now Tnuah-Yeruka-Meimad has the chance to do the same thing- emphasize new issues that have a chance of bringing the public back to the left.

  17. “But, briefly, the state’s Jewish character has to be a consequence of the state having a large Jewish majority–which is why we here at SoJo think the two-state solution is vital to Israel’s future.”

    Did I miss something, Haim ? I was talking about Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and not West Bank or Gaza Strip Palestinians… Or did you mean to say that you believe that as part of a 2-state solution, those Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin ought to move out or that their areas ought to be handed over to Palestinian sovereignty, where possible? Because unless you’re proposing that, I don’t see how you plan to keep that “large Jewish majority” of yours say, 100 years (if not 50) down the road? I’m sorry, I ask again because you didn’t answer my question. Maybe you’ve discussed it elsewhere on this blog already, if so, I would appreciate a link , if possible. Thanks.

    “Your own country is a textbook case of how a society can decay when changing demographics are not accommodated by the political structure. We want to avoid that here.”

    Well, tell you what. Better that you wouldn’t take my country as an example, because if my country is an example of anything, it’s the fact that such pathetic sect/ethnicity/religion-based models are ALL a recipe of disaster, regardless of whether or not they are adjusted every 5 years or so to maintain a Jewish or a Sunni or a Christian majority. You are learning all the wrong lessons from my country. It is not the fact that the sectarian model failed to accommodate changing demographics in Lebanon that was the recipe for disaster. It was the fact that such a model existed to begin with. And, things will keep on repeating themselves until 1) a non-sectarian/non-racialist/non-racist, truly democratic model is adopted; or 2) the demographic tides turn against the previously majority group or groups. And believe me , when that happens, it won’t be a pretty sight. Not here in Lebanon , not in Israel. You think it can’t happen to Jews because the world can’t let it happen? Go ahead and think that. I just don’t think it’s such a great idea to bet against the forces of nature.

  18. I want to add one more thing to the political discussion. Y. Ben David pointed out that there are no splinter parties on the right. That is not quite true. National Union and Yisrael Beinteinu are both (in some way) smaller, more focused break-offs from Likud. The overall strength of the Right allows them to exist and, especially for Lieberman, succeed. Since the Left is weaker, splinter parties like TY-Meimad and the Yerukim are weaker. Lieberman can only be defeated if the Center-Left is united, coherent, and appealing to the public. I don’t think Kadima, Labor, and Meretz are not capable in their current state of being that.

  19. BFL — I’m sorry if I misunderstood you. To put it in a nutshell: Non-Jews must be free and equal citizens of the Jewish state with that regards equal rights and benefits. However, the state may legitimately take upon itself to promote Jewish/Israeli language, literature, and culture. I would hope that the Jewish people would take the responsibility, through education, immigration, and the maintenance of peaceful relations with Israel’s neighbors, for maintaining a large Jewish majority. However, the state’s democratic mechanisms would allow major demographic changes to produce major political changes if and when that is needed. A couple posts you might want to peruse:
    http://www.southjerusalem.com/2008/09/the-one-state-dissolution/;
    http://www.southjerusalem.com/2008/04/misunderstanding-identity-the-left-and-the-neocons-unite/

  20. Dave-
    I am sorry that I didn’t make clear that when I was referring to “splinter parties” I was referring to small parties that have not been represented in the Knesset in the past and have no real chance to get in this time. Both the Bayit Yehudi (MAFDAL) and National Union are veteran parties that have been in the Knesset for a long time. A good example of a Leftist splinter party is Efraim Sneh’s Israel Hazaka (Strong Israel) Party. Although he is highly respected, he has no chance of getting in.

  21. I see. Lieberman wants all citizens to be drafted, but requires a loyalty oath to the Jewish character of Israel. Those in his party say America requires such an oath. No. The Constitution asserts all born on US territory are US citizens. Their life defines the America; America does not define their life. The Knesset has too much power; born where I was, I would say this.

    I had no idea Lieberman wanted a universal draft. Those on your blog have been totally silent on it. Why?

    He wants it for the wrong reason. It would lead where he wants only with lock step boots. I do not believe the people of Israel, overall, could sustain that very long. A draft would ultimately defeat Lieberman. But one must have faith in all your naturally born citizens–all of them.

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