(“Polluted Sea – Bathing is Forbidden.”)
The outcome of Israel’s parliamentary elections weren’t a great surprise for many people living in this country of 7+ million people. But now that the coalition government wrangling among the larger parties has begun, the big question among environments is whether any of important “green” issues will be dealt with by either a Likud or Kadima party based coalition government. Judging by what is currently happening, with issues like security and the economy getting most of the attention during the campaigning, the question now is whether the many ecological and environmental problems Israel is immersed in will receive any serious attention at all.
Israel has several extremely serious environmental problems that need attending to, including heavy air pollution in the big cities (especially Haifa and Tel Aviv), a water pollution problem that is bordering on the brink of being irreversible, and a ticking hazardous waste ‘time bomb’ at the large Ramat Hovav hazardous waste disposal center in the Negev. Although some effort has previously been made to deal with environmental issues, including the creation of a Ministry for the Environment several years ago, overall governmental attention to these problems have been ambivalent at best and substandard at worst.
Dying from pollution in air and water
More than a 1,000 people die from air pollution related causes in Tel Aviv and Haifa annually and many more are sick for extended periods of time. Virtually all of the country’s streams and rivers are seriously polluted; with some like the Kishon and Yarkon being so polluted as to cause death to anyone who swallows the water. A chilling example was when 4 Australian athletes died from ingesting filthy water from the Yarkon when they fell in during the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah sports event in August, 1997.
Prior to last Tuesday’s elections, only the smaller “green” political parties appeared to focus their campaign platforms on environmental issues. One of them, The Green Movement –Meimad, advocated a 50% reduction in air pollution over the next 4 years, as well as public energy conservation programs to reduce the use of fossil fuels while encouraging the development of alternative energy projects such as solar energy and wind turbines.
Another one, the Green Party, has led campaigns against both air and water pollution as well as ridding the country of dangerous microwave cellular phone antennas, present virtually everywhere; and better efforts to save and clean up the country’s beaches, many of which are being rapid eroded by commercial and private real estate development.
Security issues trump environment in Israel
With the Israeli military operations in Gaza still a recent reality, it is obvious that security issues will be forefront when the new Israeli government begins its tenure. This will be followed by the state of the economy, hit hard by the deep recession currently in the U.S.A., as well as in most of the world. Protecting the population and improving their economic lot will be the top priority agenda for the new government, no matter what its political ideologies are.
But somewhere within the minds of government planners, Israel’s environmental issues (including a water resources problem that is already verging on sheer disaster) must be dealt with as the future survival of this country is no less critical than that of the state of the environment. The larger political parties will have to realize this and act accordingly – before the country’s environmental situation passes the point of no return.
More about politics and the environment in Israel:
Israel’s Elections: Platforms on Water
Israel’s Elections: Platforms on Recycling
Israel’s Elections: Platforms on Air Pollution, Industrial Pollution, and Enforcement