If you were expecting plumes of sticky cannabis smoke and mounds of Cheetos at the “Green Leaf New Liberal Movement” press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, you would have been sorely disappointed.
The party, which first ran for the Knesset in the 1999 general elections, now has a platform for their fifth election campaign that is almost completely taken over by the libertarian “new liberal movement,” with a cleancut message of less government and more personal freedom, and nary a dreadlock in sight.
New party head Yaron Lerman said on Monday that the joint Green Leaf New Liberal Movement list would “work to strengthen the power of the voters over that of the politicians,” and unveiled the party slogan “say yes to freedom.”
At the party’s campaign launch at the Dancing Camel brewhouse in Tel Aviv on Monday, Roy Iddan, No. 8 on the party list and its campaign manager, said the party is “basically the only libertarian party in Israel and among our broad libertarian agenda we aim to promote decriminalization of cannabis.”
Iddan, a 35-year-old hi-tech worker, husband and father living in Tel Aviv, said the legalization of cannabis would be a boon for Israel’s security.
“Right now the black market sends an estimated half a billion shekels each year to Hezbollah and other criminal and terror enterprises, for no reason basically,” he said.
When asked how this election’s party platform is different from those of other years, which were widely lampooned as a political party for Tel Aviv burnouts looking to cast a protest vote, Iddan, who also serves as a volunteer police officer, said this time around the party thinks there is an audience for its message.
“Every single political party running this time is somewhere on the socialist spectrum and are talking about more government intervention and higher taxes, and we’re the only party that aside from promoting legalization of cannabis, offers a broad libertarian agenda that appeals to people.”
He added, “everyone in Israel knows the next government is probably going to be one they don’t like, so why not vote for the people who want it to have less power over their lives?” In terms of the ever important security and diplomatic issues facing Israel, Iddan said the party does not take a stance, just that it will support whatever decision the government makes on security and will call for any final diplomatic agreement to be subject to a national referendum.
Almost the entire 14-member party list is made up of people from the libertarian New Liberal Movement, with only two from the old Green Leaf party.
A lingering remnant of the salad days of Green Leaf was Boaz Wachtel, who was among three founders of the party in 1999.
No longer on the party list, Wachtel said that he nonetheless sees the connection between Green Leaf and the New Liberal Movement.
“It stands for more freedom to the people, taxing and regulating cannabis like alcohol and cigarettes, and pushing for freedom from government interference in peoples’ lives. We have had ideological synergy with them since day one.”
He added that the new joint party also cares for vulnerable members of society and shows compassion to the less fortunate. “This is how we defer from Republicans,” Wachtel said.
The newest incarnation for Green Leaf is a relatively tame one for the movement that in the 2006 campaign ran a commercial showing then-party head Gil Kopach smoking a joint on the grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, and during the last election cycle joined with the Holocaust Survivors party to run on a united list.
The party has still never passed the threshold to make it into the Knesset. It remains to be seen if this newest reboot will bring them finally into the parliament.