Meet the New MK: Dov Henin hopes for Environment Ministry

Most MKs harbor dreams of one day working their way up to the Prime Minister's Office. Hadash MK Dov Henin's highest hope, however, is to one day hold the title of environment minister. "I don't think that there is a more important ministry in the whole government," said Henin in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. "You directly affect more people's lives than any other minister ever will." During the recent election, Henin was asked why in a country like Israel, where people were constantly fixated on the security situation, politicians could afford to care about the environment. For Henin, however, the question was how could it not. "In Gush Dan [the greater Tel Aviv area] 1,100 people die each year from the effects of air pollution. That is more people dying from pollution than traffic accidents. That is more people than [are killed by] terror," said Henin. "The Environment Ministry needs to be taken seriously. It could make significant changes to improve Israeli lives." Henin has formed a Knesset environmental lobby of nearly 40 MKs from government and opposition parties. Although Gideon Ezra is the official environment minister, many MKs have taken to calling Henin the de-facto minister, after his intense interest in the issue prompted him to file dozens of environmentally minded bills in his first months of office. Henin traces his interest in the environment to his college days. After graduating from Tel Aviv University with a degree in political science, he did post-doctoral studies in environmental law at England's Oxford University. He launched a career in environmental justice, only to leave recently to run on the Hadash slate. "Hadash is the only real left-wing party," said Henin. "We are the only party that seriously deals with socialistic issues." While talk of the realignment plan and the future map of Israel continues to dominate the Knesset, Henin says he can, with certainty, draw his own map of the final bordersl. "Two countries for two peoples on the basis of the Green Line," said Henin. "Two capitals in Jerusalem, one Arab, one Jewish. When we suggested this in the 1970s people thought we were crazy. But now, more and more people in the mainstream are saying the same thing." Henin dismisses the realignment plan because he believes it is ultimately a unilateral plan. "The government says there is no partner for peace, but I have met with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and he is ready and able to be a partner," said Henin. As for Hamas, he agrees that Israel must "wait and see" whether Hamas can become a partner before engaging in dialogue with the group. "Ultimately we can't just build walls or pretend the Arabs don't exist; we must make peace," said Henin. "We must have dialogue."