Analysis: How green are the parties?

Almost all parties address environment in their platforms, but how important do they really think it is?

galilee green 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
galilee green 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Almost every party addresses the environment in its platform in some form or another, something that indicates the political echelon is aware of the issue's importance. But just how important they think it is, as well as how specific their plans to deal with it are, varies tremendously. Let's set a barometer of the big environmental issues and see how the parties stack up, leaving aside for the moment the environmental parties such as the Green Movement-Meimad and the Greens. Roughly speaking, the big issues are: energy, water, pollution, waste disposal and recycling, open spaces, green building, climate change and transportation. Almost all the big parties supported open spaces, green building and alternative energy. Of the big four - Likud, Kadima, Labor and Israel Beiteinu - the Likud stood out for the brevity and generality of its environmental platform. While touching on some of the standard issues like energy, pollution and green building, the platform fails to provide any specific goals. Somewhat surprisingly, the platform does say the Likud will fight to prevent a second coal-burning power plant in Ashkelon - something absent from the platforms of both Kadima and Labor. Kadima's platform is much more specific on environmental issues and touches on far more of them. It proposes plans for sustainable development, water management, public transportation and cleaning up the beaches, among others. However, it lacks any mention of an increase to the Environmental Protection Ministry's budget or the creation of additional government institutions devoted to the issue. That lack is perhaps not surprising considering that the current government under the leadership of Kadima has done neither. Labor, on the other hand, has declared its intention to secure the environment portfolio in any coalition of which it is a part (presumably from here on out, since Kadima has held that portfolio in the current coalition) and to double the ministry's budget. It also proposes the creation of an environmental cabinet similar to the socio-economic cabinet and other sub-cabinets. Labor's platform also sets out environmental goals that are much more specific and detailed than are Likud's, and to a certain extent Kadima's. In an apparent sign of the issue's importance to the party, Labor will also sign an environmental convention on Tuesday pledging its commitment. Israel Beiteinu's platform actually devotes a number of paragraphs to its environmental vision. They hit most of the big issues, but don't go into detail. The religious parties (Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, National Union) all make token mentions of the environment, mostly focusing on green building, protecting nature and reducing pollution. However, they offer little more than declarations about general laws which would be passed to protect the public. Among the smaller parties, Meretz and Hadash's platforms stand out. Each lays out a comprehensive and detailed environmental agenda. Traditionally, Meretz has always had an environmental slant, while the 17th Knesset's most prolific environmental legislator, Hadash's Dov Henin, no doubt had a hand in writing his party's environmental platform. Most of the parties' platforms can be found online at their campaign Web sites.