It’s tough to be green: Parties outline their platforms

'The Jerusalem Post' looks at how the major political parties perceive their physical environment.

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March 6, 2015 00:50
Jerusalem Forest Yad Vashem

A view of the Jerusalem Forest from Yad Vashem.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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As Israelis prepare to head for the polls in just 11 days, The Jerusalem Post looks at how the major political parties perceive their physical environment – their thoughts on cleaning up the air we breathe, renewable energy generation, recycling and generally making Israel a greener space.

Zionist Union

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Among the first parties to release a comprehensive environmental platform, the Zionist Union promises to “dismantle the gas monopoly” and enact a wide range of green legislation.

Upon the publication of their platform, leader Tzipi Livni stressed that “the destructive consequences of environmental pollution are not waiting for the future.” Instrumental in the creation of the platform was Yael Cohen Paran, the head of the Green Movement and a candidate on the party’s list.

The platform emphasizes the importance of “ensuring that every person will live in a clean and healthy environment.” To do so, the party stresses the need to implement measures of the Clean Air Law and, in particular, remove environmental hazards from Haifa Bay by preventing the expansion of Oil Refineries Ltd. and evacuating the ammonia facility.

In addition to promoting natural resource division among Israeli citizens rather than among “a small group of tycoons,” the party plans to advance a national plan to protect the sea that will include a regulation system for pollution prevention from gas rigs.

The platform calls for a national policy that encourages the use of public transportation over private cars, by making it more efficient, cheaper and accessible, and supports limited public transportation on weekends.



With regard to animal rights, the platform calls for, among other things, transferring responsibility for the Animal Welfare Law from the Agriculture Ministry to the Environmental Protection Ministry, ending the killing of healthy homeless dogs; restructuring municipal animal shelters; and enacting stronger supervision over animal testing.

Likud

Although the Likud did not publish a detailed environmental platform describing future intentions, it largely credits its advancements in the sector to former environmental protection minister – now interior minister – Gilad Erdan. “The vision that Minister Gilad Erdan brought with him when he entered his position as environmental protection minister was to bring about economic growth… by generating green, non-polluting electricity,” a Likud party spokesman told the Post.

Erdan spearheaded legislation for recycling, separation of waste at source and packaging disposal; promoted a project to remove asbestos in the Western Galilee; and was instrumental in struggles to save Palmahim, Betzet, Nahsholim and Nitzanim beaches from building.

The spokesman also pointed out that the government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promoted all of the Sheshinski Committee’s conclusions regarding taxation in the natural-gas sector, adding that the “gas monopoly will be dismantled into five competitors” assuming that current negotiations pan out into a full-fledged agreement.

“However, we do not join in policies that attack capitalists,” the spokesman said. “Encouragement of initiative and enterprise is important, and we believe that there can be a balance between the two.”

Yesh Atid

Yesh Atid’s official environmental platform acknowledges that preserving environmental quality “is one of the more complex challenges facing humanity,” and that “the continued neglect of precious public resources” necessitates immediate policy changes.

On recycling, Yesh Atid plans to grant economic incentives to promote separation of waste at source, and aims to develop a public awareness campaign.

According to the party platform, it plans to create a Sea and Beaches Authority that would be responsible for preserving maritime natural resources and creating a balance among the various users of the sea. In the onshore water sector, it plans to increase sewage treatment mechanisms and advocate the use of gray water.

Like Zionist Union, Yesh Atid is advocating for the transfer of the Animal Welfare Law to the Environmental Protection Ministry.

The platform also calls for an end to killings of homeless animals and advocates for increased sterilization of stray cats and dogs.

Green construction is also critical to the platform, and the party explains that under the National Housing Policy, led by the chair of the Housing Committee and former finance minister Yair Lapid, green building projects already were being promoted – such as innovative student dormitories made of shipping containers.

Yisrael Beytenu

When asked about Yisrael Beytenu’s environmental platform, a spokesman indicated that a platform with a number of broad party principles that its members intend to promote in the next Knesset has been published, rather than focusing on more specific issues.

“While all the other parties ‘discover’ magical solutions to all the ills of the country the day before elections and the day after forget about all their promises, Yisrael Beytenu demonstrated uncommon courage in all these areas – with a vision about the principles and subjects we find most important, without diminishing the importance of course of the rest of the issues,” a statement from a party spokesman said. “We simply believe that no party, no matter how large in size, has the ability to solve all the problems.”

Meretz

Meretz presents a comprehensive environmental platform, arguing that “protection of environmental resources and the right to equal access of society to them” is at the “heart” of the party’s principles, chief among them, the protection of open spaces and the notion that state-owned lands should never be sold. Meretz aims to set criteria for the lease of state lands, as well as change the priorities of the Israel Land Authority to focus on public participation and transparent activities.

In addition to preservation of open spaces, Meretz advocates complete public access to environmental data in real-time, requiring both private and public corporations to report their environmental impact data. The party platform also supports public participation in decision- making committees, as well as the formulation of regional frameworks to address environmental issues in partnership with Israel’s neighbors.

The Meretz platform pledges to support increased tax rates for resource exploitation, as well as to control natural gas prices and restrict gas exports.

United Torah Judaism

While the United Torah Judaism party does not have an official green platform, a spokesman for the ultra-Orthodox list stressed the party’s commitment to environmental issues by particularly focusing on leader MK Moshe Gafni’s 25 years of experience in the sector.

“It’s not only our goal to take care of religion and political issues, but also environmental issues are part of our mission and our duty,” a spokesman said.

Among the many environmental campaigns in which Gafni has been involved was the advancement of legislation against beach building, which eventually led to the passage of the Protection of the Coastal Environment Law in 2004. Gafni also has worked as a long-time partner on environmental issues with MK Dov Henin (Hadash), a left-wing politician running on the Joint (Arab) List, the spokesman added.

Joint (Arab) List

The Joint List – which incorporates candidates from four parties – United Arab List, Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – has a common platform that includes “a guiding principle about the struggle toward social and environmental justice,” a spokeswoman for Hadash told the Post. However, Hadash itself has a detailed green platform led by Henin – who has long been a champion of environmental causes in Israel.

Hadash’s environmental platform, likewise, focuses on achieving environmental justice, blaming the destruction of today’s environment in part on the “enshrinement” of values that “ensure profits to real-estate sharks and capitalist enterprises.”

The party proposes strengthening existing communities rather than building new ones, and calls upon the government to regain control of state resources.

Also critical are renewable energy promotion; prioritization of public transportation; and the establishment of a governing authority for animal rights under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Yahad

The ultra-Orthodox Yahad party, under the leadership of MK Eli Yishai, pledges “to implement laws for the protection of the environment and preservation of public life and health against environmental hazards.”

According to the platform, Yahad is specifically committing to reducing air pollution and odor hazards caused by factories adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

“The Yahad party will work together to protect natural resources and wildlife, in accordance with the principles of the Torah and Jewish law, which prohibit cruelty to animals and greedy exploitation of natural resources for materialistic reasons, or negligent acts by commercial or governmental operations,” the party’s platform says.

Bayit Yehudi, Kulanu, Shas

Despite repeated inquiries from the Post, these parties did not provide environmental platforms by the time of publication.

A spokesman for Kulanu emphasized that as a new party, elements of its detailed platform are still constantly being published.

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