Blooming Green Party already faces new rival

New party says fact that Greens had never made it into the Knesset demonstrates need for alternative.

green party 88 (photo credit:)
green party 88
(photo credit: )
Polls predict that the environmentalist Green Party could replace the Pensioners Party in the next Knesset as the dark horse that will win the support of young and disgruntled voters. But the Greens already face the same sort of internal strife that has plagued the Pensioners, whose seven-MK faction formally split in two on Monday. An alternative environmental party that is getting set to launch at the end of the month will try to win support away from the older Green Party before the Knesset race has even begun. A source close to the leadership of the new party said there was a need for a new green party, because the Greens had never made it into the Knesset and because of disputes between them and environmental organizations. "For many years, there was a schism between the Israeli environmental movement and the Greens," he said. "They are widely perceived as being opportunistic, unprofessional charlatans. Our party will be more centrist and professional - a noncorrupt alternative." The new party will be co-headed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev professor Alon Tal and Eran Ben Yemini of the Green Course student environmental organization. Tal is the founder of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, one of the founders of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura, and was part of Israeli delegations to the United Nations on water and desertification issues. Several hundred people are involved in putting together the party's platform, which will encompass positions on all the major issues of the day and not just the environment. A source in the party said its positions and organization would be democratic and transparent. Green Party chairman, Peer Visner, who is the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, responded by recounting the party's environmental achievements in Tel Aviv and nationwide, and inviting the new party to compete democratically. "Our achievements prove that we are neither opportunistic nor charlatans," Visner said. "We did not wake up in the morning and decide to form an environmental party because it's a hot issue. But it's a democracy, and whoever wants to form a party can. We invite everyone to join our effort to change the environment in Israel." Visner said his party had withstood a hostile takeover effort in the past. He accused the people involved in forming the new party of accepting international funding for the environment and then using it for politics. The Green Party was formed in 1997 after the Maccabiah Bridge foot bridge collapsed, killing two Australian athletes and injuring 60 people. Its achievements include forcing the Reading Power Plant in north Tel Aviv to use natural gas instead of crude oil. Polls have shown the party winning four seats in the next Knesset and perhaps more if it can bring in a charismatic leader to head the list. Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines has confirmed that he was asked to head the list, but has denied that he seriously considered the offer. MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) has reportedly been approached by both environmentalist parties. Visner said he would head the Green Party in the Knesset race as he has in the past, but this time make it into the legislature. "We don't get intoxicated by the polls," Visner said. "We just try do our work. The public realizes that the Greens will be in the next Knesset with real power, which we use all the time, not just before elections. Only the real Green Party can stand up to the polluters."