Money may not grow on trees, but rightwing politicians hope that their popularity among their constituencies will, when they mark Tu Bishvat on Thursday with planting ceremonies in the West Bank.
Politicians from Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Shas announced their plans to plant trees in areas whose control is being discussed in peace talks with the Palestinians. These symbolic plantings should appeal to right-wing voters, outflanking Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon who a day earlier scored points with the Right by insulting US Vice President John Kerry’s efforts to divide the Land of Israel.
Ya’alon’s deputy in the Defense Ministry, Danny Danon, intends to bring 14 busloads of Likud activists to a planting ceremony and tour in the Jordan Valley on Thursday. The planting is to take place beside a monument near Ma’aleh Ephraim.
“We are sending a clear message to our friends in the US that the Likud’s stance on the Jordan Valley is unanimous,” Danon said. “There must be an Israeli presence that will be both military and civilian in the Jordan Valley in any agreement Israel accepts.
Planting trees is the ultimate way to prove our connection to the valley and persuade people that without Jewish communities there, there will not be security.”
Bayit Yehudi did not surprise with its announcement that its MKs would be planting trees Thursday in northern Samaria. But the Shas faction’s plans for tree-planting in the Binyamin Region raised eyebrows.
Shas leader Arye Deri recently met American officials to clarify his party’s point of view on the peace process. Party officials said that planting trees in Judea showed that Shas remained solidly in the nationalist camp under Deri’s leadership.
“It is wrong to say we are Leftists,” Deri said. “Shiloh was the site of the Tabernacle and it is ours.”
Other right-wing MKs intend to make political statements with their tree-planting, including deputy minister Ophir Akunis (Likud) in Sderot and MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) in Aish Kodesh, near Shiloh.
Politicians on the Left, meanwhile, intend to use Tu Bishvat to send a message about the need to focus on communities inside the Green Line. Labor MKs will build in the Negev. The Meretz faction will plant in kibbutzim near Kiryat Shmona.
Kadima planted what it promised would become a forest in the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council eight years ago, when the party was formed, in order to send a message that its roots were being planted. This year, for the first time since then, there will be no tree-planting ceremony in the Kadima forest.
The party’s representation in the Knesset has fallen to only two seats, and it is facing financial difficulties. But a source close to Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz said the size of the faction and the party was not the reason no planting would take place.
“We invited 300 people to the ceremony, but we canceled it to respect the seven-day mourning period for [party founder] Ariel Sharon,” the source said. “Otherwise, the ceremony would have taken place.”