Fewer successes for 'green' laws in the Knesset

'Coalition is voting down environmental legislation,' Ophir Paz-Pines charges.

Greenpeace activists-224 (photo credit: )
Greenpeace activists-224
(photo credit: )
While there has been an increase in "green" activity at the Knesset, there were actually fewer laws approved for preliminary readings in the last year than in the previous one, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) said in its annual assessment released this week. "Despite the increased parliamentary activities about environmental issues in the 17th Knesset, central environmental laws have not been approved yet which prevents Israel from joining the community of advanced nations in the field of environmental protection," IUED Dir.-Gen. Tzipi Iser Itzik said in a statement. Several major bills remain in the works, IUED found, such as the Clean Air Act, a correction to the recyling law, a bill to reduce greenhouse gases, a bill to mandate rehabilitation of ground pollution, and others. Just five percent of all proposed laws were environmental in nature, the report found. In addition, nine bills were approved in preliminary readings this year as opposed to 13 last year. Nevertheless, IUED did tally more environmental activity this session than in previous years. IUED also rated parties and specific MKs for their "green" efforts. Hadash MK Dov Khenin, who came to the Knesset from the field of environmental activism, topped the list with 28 bills, seven parliamentary questions and 11 agenda recommendations. Khenin is also the joint chair of the Environmental-Social Justice Lobby and a vocal member of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. That committee's head, MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), was also praised for his work, particularly on behalf of the Clean Air Act. He proposed 17 bills, passed two laws regarding protecting the Kinneret, and held more than 70 committee sessions about environmental issues. In response to the report, Paz-Pines charged the government with actively torpedoing environmental legislation in the plenum. "The government votes down environmental bills one by one through the coalition majority," he said. MK Michael Melchior, co-chair of the lobby with Khenin, was also praised for his environmental efforts. He proposed 10 bills, got two others passed, and participated in most environmental activities at the Knesset. Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Moshe Gafni (UTJ) were also singled out for praise. MK Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) received special recognition for creating the lobby to save the Dead Sea. She managed to centralize all aspects dealing with the sea under one minister and brought about the creation of a government company with a NIS 300 million budget to help save the sea. Tartman thanked IUED for the honor but said that she hoped environmental legislation would become the norm and there would be no need in the future to note such efforts as extraordinary. Environmental issues usually crossed party lines to draw support but IUED noted that Kadima, Meretz, Shas, the National Union, Balad, and the Pensioners were all conspicuous in their absence. IUED also awarded MK Yoram Marciano (Labor) for proposing the most anti-environmental law - one which would allow billboard advertisements on all intercity highways.