In a landslide victory for green activists, World Zionist Congress delegates approved two environmental resolutions on Thursday that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect Israel’s water resources.
The two resolutions proposed by the environmental organization Aytzim – “Preserving a Healthy Climate for Israel’s Future” and “Protecting Israel’s Water Supply from Pollution” – gained overwhelming approval, respectively earning 487 votes in favor and 19 against and 473 in favor and 15 against. The delegates voted on the resolutions on the final afternoon of the three-day World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, where representatives of Zionist organizations and political parties around the world gather every few years to make policy decisions.
“People are certainly becoming more environmentally aware,” David Krantz, co-founder, president and chairman of the organization Aytzim, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night, prior to Thursday’s vote.
Aytzim, formerly known as the Green Zionist Alliance, underwent an expansion last year and now governs three projects, among which is an Israel-focused environmental program still known as the Green Zionist Alliance.
“This is less and less of a strange issue for people,” he continued. “And for more and more people, particularly young people, this is an issue with which people resonate strongly.”
The Healthy Climate resolution adopts the seven-year cyclical concept of the sabbatical year, shmita, calling upon the World Zionist Organization, as well as Keren-Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod to develop seven-year climate action plans to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution also tasks the organizations with conducting carbon footprint analyses to determine the sources of their emissions, and issuing periodic reports assessing the progress of their seven-year plans.
“It’s the sort of thing they should be doing anyhow, without a resolution that requires them to do so,” Krantz said. “But since they’re not doing it, we’re putting through congress this resolution that requires them to do it. The notion of environmental planning is very new in the Zionist organizational world.”
Acknowledging that passing a resolution does not always guarantee implementation, Krantz stressed that “you have to start somewhere.”
“There’s still value in passing these laws,” he said.
The second approved resolution requires KKL-JNF to prevent any fossil fuel extractions on lands owned by the organization, as well as oppose any such project at other locations that have the potential to negatively impact Israel’s water resources.
Describing KKL-JNF as “a caretaker of the Land of Israel, committed to its preservation and protection for future generations,” the resolution’s text notes that the organization has constructed some 200 dams and reservoirs throughout the country. As KKL-JNF was active in opposing an in-situ oil shale pilot project that was eventually rejected by the government, the resolution suggests that the organization take on a similar stance against the conventional oil drilling exploration occurring on the Golan Heights.
“This resolution will help ensure that KKL’s pro-environmental stance against fracking and in-situ retorting [oil extraction] will remain regardless of what politician is running the organization,” Krantz said.
World Zionist Congress delegates elected MK Dani Atar (Labor) to replace incumbent Efi Stenzler as KKL-JNF chairman – a decision that is still pending the approval of the fund’s board of directors.
The resolution, Krantz stressed, is “not a response to any specific individual.”
“It’s a recognition that the leaders change every few years,” he said. “We think it’s important for the pro-environmental stance of KKL-JNF to remain regardless of leadership.”
By passing the resolution on protecting Israel’s water supply, the congress is able to perpetuate the visions of Theodor Herzl as well as preserve KKL-JNF’s legacy as “a protector of the environment of Israel,” Krantz added.
“We need the organization that Herzl established to safeguard the land, to follow through and to fulfill that duty of stewardship,” he said.
The two environmental resolutions approved on Thursday join seven other such resolutions that have been authorized at previous World Zionist Congress meetings, after three were okay-ed in 2006 and four in 2010.
The 2010 resolutions mandated that KKL-JNF, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency adopt more energy efficient measures, as well as install solar panels and water-saving systems, according to Aytzim. In addition, the resolutions that year required the congress itself to abate climate change by offsetting the carbon footprint of traveling participants, called for the Jewish Agency to incorporate environmental education in the immigration experience and restructured the congress’s food procurement policies.
In 2006, the resolutions involved introducing recycled paper use in Zionist organizations, strengthening the environmental policies of KKL-JNF and requiring environmental impact statements for World Zionist Organization construction projects.
Two environmental measures that were unable to receive approval this year, due to the fact that the resolutions committee on Wednesday did not vote upon them, focused on green building and renewable energy integration. Krantz explained that the resolutions committee simply ran out of time to discuss all proposals, and that these remaining two would likely come to the table of the next Zionist General Council forum – a meeting that occurs between congresses.
All in all, Krantz expressed Aytzim’s satisfaction with the progress made thus far, noting that the organization’s environmental resolutions seem to be “striking a cord with other parties.”
“Environmental issues are issues that affect our survival and thriving as humans, both in this country and on the planet,” he said. “That bridges all political divides.”