Labor agrees to go green with new pact

Former Green Party member: Small parties have no chance in Knesset.

Ophir Paz Pines makes a point 246 (photo credit: Roni Schutzer)
Ophir Paz Pines makes a point 246
(photo credit: Roni Schutzer)
Members of the Labor Party signed a pact on Tuesday detailing their commitment to environmental issues, and called on green-concerned voters to support a large party that could lead the environmental revolution. After announcing the party's socioeconomic agenda on Monday, Labor MKs and ministers gathered in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to sign the Labor Party Environmental Pact, a "legal document" elaborating the party's obligations to improve the quality of the environment. "By attending this event, we demonstrate our commitment to environmental issues," Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the activists, local council heads and MKs at the event. "We are the first big party in Israel that has a proven record in the field, and we seek to continue leading this agenda in each of the government offices where we serve and in the government we seek to lead." MK Ophir Paz-Pines, who chairs the Knesset Committee of Internal Affairs and Environment, said the party would act to expand the Environmental Protection Ministry's authority and to establish an environmental cabinet. "We will continue the wave of legislation and work in this area to close the gaps between Israel and the Western countries, especially now that everyone understands that a polluted environment is one that kills," Paz-Pines said. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer noted the breakthrough shift to natural gas, as well as the party's efforts in advancing alternative energy sources, providing incentives to producers of solar energy and finding solutions for the deepening water crisis. Labor also introduced Gil Yodfat, a former member of the Green Party who chose to leave his party and join Labor. "Only a large party can advance environmental issues. Unfortunately there is no chance the small green parties will pass the [2 percent] threshold and enter the Knesset, and therefore I call on those who plan to vote for the green agenda to pick the Green EMET [Labor's ballot letters] note in the voting booths," Yodfat said. The document also notes the green achievements of party members, which include the Clean Air Law promoted by Paz-Pines, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon's friendlier policy in agriculture, and the natural gas revolution led by Ben-Eliezer. By signing the pact, Labor has committed itself to advancing the green revolution and turning Israel into an environmentally dedicated state. It will do this, the document says, by establishing an environmental cabinet, demanding the Environmental Protection portfolio and enlarging the ministry's budget. The party also promised to develop sustainable open green spaces and environment-friendly private construction, as well as to promote green economy; protect existing water sources and accelerate desalination; strive for wide use of renewable energy, recycling and non-polluting transportation; reduce radiation from cellular antennas; and promote transparency and environmental justice. But not everyone was happy about Labor's green manifesto. Activists of the Green Party, headed by Pe'er Visner, demonstrated outside the building where Labor was introducing the agenda. The protesters carried signs that read, "Barak treats IDF soldiers as guinea pigs" - a reference to recent claims of increased instances of cancer among Nahal soldiers who served on the Tel Arad military base. "Instead of signing agreements, Barak needs to order the closure of the Nahal military base in Tel Arad and to move the soldiers to a different base. IDF soldiers are not guinea pigs or lab animals," Visner said. Later Tuesday night, Barak and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog manned the phones at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, calling dozens of undecided voters and asking them to support the party. Many of the people who picked up couldn't believe they were talking to Barak or Herzog, and once they realized they were talking to the ministers themselves, they were much easier to convince.