At the very last moment, just before the deadline for submitting party lists to the Knesset Election Committee, Stav Shaffir convened a press conference on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard to announce that she would not run for election. About Shaffir everything has already been said, and we don’t have much to add. In contrast, the history of the Green movement and its fate is far more interesting, especially given that throughout the world, the Green parties declare a “climate emergency,” while the Israeli Knesset has no one to fight for this agenda.
The overnight positioning of Shaffir as head of the Green movement apparently tells the whole story. Shaffir grew out of the 2011 social protest on Rothschild Boulevard. Ever since she left the Labour Party last June to join Ehud Barak, we haven’t heard a thing about the climate. This shows that the Green movement has become a party on the shelf that sells itself to the highest bidder. The Greens saw Shaffir as the one who would bring their issue into the Knesset, but they wound up serving her political interests.
There is indeed a Green movement here and vibrant Green organizations alongside it, but a Green political party does not exist. Why not? Because the attempt to isolate the Green struggle from any political position vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue has caused its disappearance from the parliamentary arena. Green movements are ready to flirt with Minister of the Environment Ze’ev Elkin, an extremist right-wing Likud member and West Bank settler who denies the Palestinian right to self-determination. However, when Elkin appears at international climate forums, he is accompanied by an entourage of Israeli environmental organizations, which beautify Israel’s image.
Elkin is a member of a government that not only denies the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens, but almost completely ignores environmental issues. Thus, the Green movement has turned the environmental issue into a commodity that can be shaped to fit any political platform, right or left. Tzipi Livni’s Kadima, Bougie Herzog’s Zionist Camp and Ehud Barak’s Democratic Union – all served as platforms for the Greens. Each of them, together or individually, has been part of a Netanyahu government, and all have lent a hand to the political reality that has emerged here over the past decade.
The Green movement’s decision not to run independently in elections, and the fact that it favoured political opportunism over principle, has not proven itself. It is always possible to rationalize the reluctance to run independently with the nature of Israeli society, which is in a state of perpetual war and thus places the issue of security at the top of public priorities. Yet security and the environment are intertwined and must not be separated. It is no coincidence that the world’s Green movements see peace as a necessary condition for preserving the environment, placing human welfare at the centre of their struggle. The issue of environment has also become an issue of human rights, because millions of people are suffering and are likely to suffer from the effects of climate change.
In contrast, the Israeli Green movement makes a clear distinction between peace (a desirable but not necessary commodity) and the environment that is in immediate danger. Joining with Tzipi Livni, Bougie Herzog, Ehud Barak and Stav Shaffir represents a kind of statement that peace can be compromised for the environment’s sake. This idea is completely wrong, because anyone who has given up on peace and is indifferent to the fate of 5 million Palestinians will also be indifferent to the fate of the earth. Is it possible to separate President Donald Trump’s extreme nationalist views and xenophobia from his denial of the climate crisis and withdrawal from the Paris Accords? Is it possible to separate the conservative evangelical belief that the fate of the earth is in God’s hands from the Trump supporters’ refusal to address the problem of fossil fuels?
Those who want to fight for the environment must adopt a universal view that accepts the Other, cares for the rights of immigrants and refugees, and considers social equality and the fight against poverty to be an integral part of their struggle. This rule is no less true in Israel. How can we fight for the environment and not embrace democratic and universal values? How can we embrace patriotic values that distance the Palestinians of both Israel and the Occupied Territories from any joint struggle for the environment? Is it possible to imagine Israel in 2050 as a green state, if it continues to control what will then be 10 million Palestinians lacking in civil rights, physical infrastructure, education, health and modern sources of employment?
The fight against global warming is at its core a common struggle of all humanity. The climate, as is known, does not recognize national borders: the fires in Australia are directly related to hurricanes slamming the US coast. The attempt to limit the environmental struggle to the area of a tiny country such as Israel, with no relation to what is occurring in the Palestinian territories it occupies or in neighbouring countries, is absurd and short-sighted. Such has been the Green movement’s behaviour since its establishment here in 2008.
The desertification in northeast Syria, the dehydration of the Euphrates and Tigris in Iraq, the struggle between Ethiopia and Egypt over the sources of the Nile, the vast population growth in shrinking living spaces have all played an important role in motivating the Arab Spring. The basic demand of the rebellious young Arabs is for democracy and social justice. Can Israel’s Green movement remain indifferent to the fact that support for the tyrants in the Arab world has become an Israeli national consensus, including all Zionist parties?
The Da’am Workers’ Party has adopted a green agenda not only as a purely environmental program, but as part of a political / social one. The turn to renewable energy, shared transport, the internet and social platforms for strengthening the commons against multinationals—these are not just economic solutions that will propel society into the future. The green agenda not only raises labour productivity and contributes to social wealth, it is also a program for erasing social gaps, including the gaps between Arab and Israeli societies. The green economy provides a platform for integrating Palestinian society into an economy that can work equally for the welfare of both peoples.
The green agenda that we advocate serves as a platform to end the occupation and to unite the resources, human and physical, which will make it possible to build a joint Palestinian-Israeli society. Adopting it requires abandoning the two-state chimera, which in reality has ceased to exist, becoming a cover for continuing the occupation in its current form. The disappearance of the Green movement from the parliamentary arena must be a catalyst for innovative thinking, especially in view of the fact that both the Zionist parties and the mostly Arab Joint List completely neglect environmental issues. It is no coincidence that what remains of the Zionist left is tied to Benny Gantz’s apron strings, and continues lip-servicing the “two-state solution”.
The time has come to proudly present the “Green Economy – One State” solution. The Green organizations have a heavy responsibility to connect Israelis and Palestinians for a safe environment, a common future and the peace of the earth.