The Israeli domestic political scene is looking more and more chaotic. The decision to hold early elections on February 10 has sent politicians and would-be politicians into a frenzy to find their political home and to try to guarantee themselves a seat among the 120 available in the Knesset. Old names are popping up and realigning themselves with their old political homes, while others are jumping ship to newly created coalitions or splinter parties.
The Israeli body-politic is quite divided. The two main blocks – “center-right” and “center-left” each claim about 50% of the electorate. During the last two decades the shift between the two blocks has been slight and often resembling a pendulum – swinging back and forth. No single government has had a stable enough majority to last through the four-year term of office. The Palestinian issue remains the most contentious, and decisions on borders, Jerusalem, refugees must be dealt with by future governments. But the Palestinian issues are not the only problems we face.
The social-economic gaps have widened. Unemployment is on the rise – this time hitting all segments of the population. The quality of life has declined. Israel is facing an increasingly severe environmental crisis, the poisoning of the Yarkon river being just the latest example. We spend more and more hours sitting in traffic jams. Our water is not only running out: much of our fresh water resources are polluted. We have the greatest minds in the world for developing new technologies, yet we are far behind on addressing the issue of reusable and clean energies – even though the reliance of the entire world on oil is not only an environmental issue for us, but one of primary political and global importance.
On the main political issues – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli-Syrian conflict, political solutions exist, but we seem to lack the quality of leaders who are willing to make decisions. Our leaders all too often verbalize their understanding of the solutions only after they lack the political power to do anything about it.
Our young people avoid political engagement; they seem to either among those who are in despair or those who are apathetic. The rate of voter participation in national elections has been on a steady decline. Yet that is not the true reality. The young people want to be engaged – they are simply not inspired by what they see in the field of the political arena. They are not only sick and fed up of corrupt politicians; they are tired of the same old empty clichés, cheap politics of smears and spins and a total lack of vision for a better tomorrow. They want change, not talk about change. They are waiting to be inspired and many of them are standing up to lead and to inspire.
I MYSELF have been inspired by those young people, by their activism and by their professionalism. For some 20 years people have been urging me to cross the line and join the race for politics. After about 30 years of working on the sidelines of politics, I have finally decided to jump into the political world directly. I have become involved in an initiative to create a new political movement in Israel that has decided to run on the February 10 election, and I have decided to run for the Knesset within that new party: the “Green Movement”.
I feel at home in this movement, and I am truly motivated by the energy, dedication and integrity of its founders and activists. The Green Movement believes that we are on this planet to make it a better place. We are trustees, not the owners. We are part of a region – a neighborhood which requires cooperation across borders for the benefit of all. We have to take responsibility so that everyone who lives here has the best opportunities to achieve a good and decent life for themselves and their families. We must address the inequalities and injustices in our society with sincere solidarity, and we must fight for real social justice. The Green Movement is the real thing. This is the true new kind of politics that everyone is talking about. Our message is that there is hope in politics – it is not all money and corruption. There are good and serious people who want to make government work for the people. There are political and social activists who have dedicated their lives to making this country what it really could be and now they are standing up to be counted.
ONE MILLION Israelis did not vote in the last elections. The 185,759 people who voted for the Pensioners party got them seven seats in the Knesset, but at least five of those seats were protest votes. Another 47,595 people voted for the “Green Leaf” party to legalize marijuana, 40,353 people voted for the so-called “Green party” (not to be confused with the Green Movement) – they were misled to believe that just because the title of the party is “green” so is the ideology and the world view of the party representatives. Another 18,753 voted for Tafnit because they wanted clean politics. The Green Movement is seeking the support of the one million Israelis who didn’t vote and of those who voted for one of the parties above in protest. The ground swell of support for local parties like “Ir L’kulanu – City for All” in Tel Aviv and the young “Awakening” party in the Jerusalem elections along with another 20-plus people who were elected in councils around the country serve as the base for the new Green Movement Party.
The Green Movement has sprung to life from the ground – from the grass-roots. Hundreds of non-governmental organizations, groups working for social change and social justice, supporters of the environment, people who understand that just as in the environment, everything is connected to everything else – people who have a wide worldview which focuses on the quality of life for all and has in sight the individual good as well as the collective good – this is what constitutes the new Green Movement.
The Green Movement’s political vision statement is one of the best political documents I have read in a long time. It is comprehensive, visionary and at the same time, realpolitik. The Green Movement is prepared to become a major force in Israeli politics. Founded on the principles of democracy that guide civil society grassroots organizations, the membership is open to all until November 28. Primaries for the list for the Knesset will be held on December 12. There are no “celebs” as window dressing. The party is made up of dedicated professionals and activists who will bring a breath of fresh air to Israeli politics. I am pleased to jump into the political arena as part of this new and exciting initiative.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.