Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal

The upcoming elections, round four, are being conducted under exceptional conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic and defeat of US President Donald Trump by Joe Biden are creating a new political reality. To address the health, climate, economic, and racial crisis the United States is experiencing, the Biden-led Democratic Party which has a plan for a profound change in American domestic policy. The problem, however, is not just an American one. The entire world, including Israeli and Palestinian society, is undergoing similar crises in the areas of health, climate, and economic arrangements that have so far dominated.

These changes strengthen our vision of creating the reality of a shared state – democratic, egalitarian, and green – in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). We therefore present to the public the “Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal” plan, which will be our slogan in the current election campaign.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the urgent need to conduct a mental reckoning of the economic and social priorities of the neoliberal economic regime. This regime has nurtured the interests of companies and the private sector at the expense of the needs of the public sector.  It has sown the seed of exploitation and destruction of natural resources, while undermining the very existence of human life on earth.

The Democratic Party in the United States has chosen to adopt new priorities, the essence of which are poverty eradication, equality for the black minority, and a war against climate change. Biden’s election has made these issues the new compass for all countries of the world, especially developed countries.

The DAAM Party sees the Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal platform as the appropriate answer both to the political and economic crisis that Israel is undergoing, and for creating the basis for a true Israeli-Palestinian partnership. This is the plan by which the conflict between the peoples can be ended, and the apartheid regime that Israel imposes on the Palestinians in the oPt can be abolished. This is the plan with power to replace the occupation with a partnership grounded in civil justice, granting full civil rights to Palestinians as well as to Israelis within a shared state.

Israel’s upcoming fourth consecutive round of elections indicates an unprecedented crisis at the political, economic, health, and social levels. The government’s failure to address the COVID-19 crisis is a direct result of its economic policies, which contended in the past 3 decades that the public sector should be dried up and the private sector bolstered. Reducing health care budgets have resulted in a shortage of medical staff and hospital beds, eventually forcing the government to pursue a policy of lockdowns to cope with the pandemic. Due to the shortage of classrooms, teachers and staff, schools could not meet social distancing regulations and were closed. While the high-tech sector continued to function remotely, many sectors were completely silenced, revealing a large gap between a narrow stratum of advanced industry workers, benefiting from the economic regime, and the vast majority who are losing their sources of livelihood.

Changing economic and social priorities, and the struggle to stop climate change and save the world from extinction, are not a “Zionist” or “Palestinian” task, but a universal, human one. Just as a green policy in the United States cannot be implemented in isolation from addressing racism against blacks, a green policy in Israel cannot be implemented in isolation from the abolition of the apartheid regime against the Palestinians, and the racist discrimination against Arab citizens in Israel.

Principles of the Green New Deal

Fiscal policy

Israel’s current fiscal policy relies on preventing an increase in the budget deficit so it does not exceed 3% of the gross national product, as well as lowering corporation taxes, the price for which is paid by the public sector. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the great suffering inflicted on the workers and poor throughout the world, most countries have adopted expansive fiscal policies. We advocate for increasing the deficit to invest in infrastructure, and raising taxes on the rich to distribute social wealth more fairly and thus reduce poverty and social disparities. In other words, take from the rich and give to the poor.

Economic policy

Economic policy should rely on increasing state involvement in management of the economy, and on encouraging public projects rather than incentivizing monopolies. The neoliberal sale of public facilities, such as airports, ports, the Dead Sea, gas and electricity, is today perceived as widening the gap between the rich minority, which enjoys ownership of everything, and the majority, which lacks ownership of anything. The promise that wealth would seep into the lower classes turned out to be false. Low wages were fixed, the cost of living soared, and monopolies infiltrated the Knesset corridors and influenced legislation, while creating a blatant system of government-capital relations.

Health

The shortage of beds and staff in hospitals negatively impacted the health system’s ability to deal with the pandemic. We have paid a heavy economic and human price for reducing investment in public medicine and mechanisms for coping with pandemics. Construction of additional hospitals, and the improvement of medical staff status, will make it possible to protect the health, economic, and mental well-being of citizens. Future medicine must invest more resources in new web-based technologies. In contrast to the neoliberal position that advocates for the drying up of public medicine, the resilience of Israel’s health maintenance organizations (HMOs), in spite of heavy cuts during the years –  stand out starkly today, especially in light of Israel’s success in leading the world’s most rapid vaccination campaign.

Mental health

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the country’s inability to treat mental illness, and especially depression, due to the scarcity of resources allocated to mental health treatments. People suffering from mental health problems are forced into expensive private care, and many must then give up treatment due to its cost.

In the Arab public, those in need of mental health care are neglected and hidden, with religious clerics often fulfilling the role of psychologist. Many Arab women live in a state of chronic depression, the consequences of which are disastrous for themselves and their children’s future. The issue of mental health in the Arab public can only be resolved through recognition that mental health care is a basic and universal right in modern society, and the state must render it accessible to every citizen.

Education

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the weakness of Israel’s education system as all students, from kindergarten through high school, essentially lost an entire school year. The target of 15 students per class, to meet the conditions of social distancing, proved impossible in the current situation where forty children are crammed into each class. The quality of education in such crowded conditions speaks for itself. Teacher shortages and low salaries, together with outdated and non-technological teaching methods, have harmed student achievements. Large gaps exist between students who own a personal computer, and belong to the established strata, and students who belong to the poor strata. No wonder hundreds of private schools have sprung up in recent decades, while public schools have dwindled and been marginalized.

This situation has resulted in the widening of gaps between students in the periphery and those in urban centers and established localities, as well as between Arab and Jewish students. Arab society pays a very heavy price for the neglect of education, which excludes thousands of students from the new economy. Many students drop out of the system and turn to unregulated and even dangerous areas of employment, such as construction and agriculture. The education system is not seen as a lever for social mobility, leaving many youths on the margins, vulnerable to manipulations by religious preachers or crime gangs.

An integral part of the Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal involves classroom construction, raising the status of teachers, renewing curricula, introducing new and technology-based teaching methods, introducing a computer to every child, and training students to integrate into the Fourth Industrial Revolution based on robots, Internet, Blockchain, Internet of things, and the professions that accompany them. This is not an “Arab” or “Jewish” task, but a shared task to eliminate gaps between the two societies, and to build a just and democratic society which connects all citizens on the basis of equal opportunities.

Vocational Training

Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, and a large proportion of them are unlikely to return to work in the near future, whether due to business collapse, or because employers have turned to new technologies to save on staffing costs. The area of vocational training in Israel has practically been eliminated, out of a blatant social short-sightedness derived from neoliberal philosophy.  In light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution taking place before our eyes, there is no escape from a massive renovation of vocational training centers. These will train workers in new professions in areas such as renewable energy, converting the economy to advanced technology, and in particular computers and the Internet of things.

Workers without work or job security

The Israeli neoliberal economy has created inconceivable gaps between two types of workers – those who work in  high-tech and enjoy huge salaries, and those who earn a minimum wage or are forced to work in the “gig economy.” Most of these latter workers are unorganized, and have no pensions or social benefits. This created a layer of poor workers with no economic future. In the Arab society in Israel, most workers are not unionized, and they suffer from a high level of poverty even while working long hours.

Palestinian workers suffer the most severe repression. Most Palestinian workers are employed in inhumane conditions, without any social security, and are subject to the “permit regime” that renders them utterly dependent on the whims of their employers, most of whom evade paying minimum wages and other basic rights to which workers are entitled by law.

To ensure sustainable jobs, the DAAM Party calls for massive investment in public service development and the creation of millions of jobs, while establishing an infrastructure of vocational training and a social safety net, which will encourage mobility and education. The right of Palestinian workers to social conditions must be respected, and labor laws must be enforced.

DAAM encourages Israeli and Palestinian workers to join trade unions based on the principles of equality and solidarity, in order to fight for a just society. The MAAM Workers Association, which unites Israeli and Palestinian workers, is proof on the ground of the possibility of promoting such a revolutionary social movement as a lever for political and social change.

Universal social safety net for all

For three decades, the National Insurance Institute, the government body responsible for ensuring the a safety net for Israeli citizens, has pursued a cruel policy of cuts in pension, subsistence, disability, and unemployment benefits to which every citizen is entitled. The allowances granted today do not meet the barest subsistence requirements of those who need them, and are at the bottom of the allowance scale among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For example, today’s pension of NIS 2,500 per month per person constitutes about one-fifth of the average salary. A person with 100% disability, whose expenses are naturally higher, receives NIS 5,300 per month, i.e. the minimum wage. Unemployment benefits have also been cut, following a perception that it is not state’s role to subsidize “idlers.” Palestinian workers employed in Israel are not entitled to any of the social security components of social security, except for work accident insurance or in the event of the bankruptcy of an employer. Such a social safety net is full of holes and leaves millions in conditions of poverty and even hunger. This is even more pronounced against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which paralyzed the economy and left hundreds of thousands without livelihood.

The failure of Israel’s social safety net beyond the current crisis must be considered. The technological changes of the new economy and of the Fourth Industrial Revolution outweigh many of the old professions, such as the transportation industry (trucks, buses and trains), which will be replaced by autonomous cars or robots. Artificial intelligence will also replaces labor-intensive professions. Supermarkets will operate without cashiers, warehouse and stock workers; and similar processes will occur in banks and other institutions. This change leads to a rethinking of the ability to earn a living under unfamiliar conditions, which has already given rise to the debate over the need for universal basic income. This idea is gaining more and more support in Western countries, as it defines the government’s duty to provide a permanent economic base for every citizen, which will make it possible to overcome the threat of a ‘world without work’. Such a policy would allow everyone to consider professional mobility, capacity building, economic and social entrepreneurship, leisure and cultural activities, including volunteering in the community.

Reduction of the military budget

Netanyahu is proud of his achievements related to peace agreements with Arab countries. To the peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have recently been added those with Gulf countries, Morocco, and Sudan. As the threat from the Syrian regime and its military disappeared due to the civil war, Israel cannot claim it is facing a real strategic danger. The regime in Iran and terrorist organizations scattered in the area from Yemen to Lebanon do not pose a strategic threat to Israel’s security either. Despite this, the government provides huge budgets to the military at the expense of necessary budgets for health, education, and even investment in infrastructure. Military employees retire at the age of 45 and enjoy a generous monthly pension of at minimum NIS 18,000 for the duration of their lives. These budgets have no justification in an era of reduced security dangers.

Transportation

A smart public transportation network is an essential future need. The private car not only pollutes the air, but further poses a major barrier to economic development and productivity. The commuter traffic jams and parking shortage render the private car as a means of transportation to the workplace an unjustified burden. There is no escape from weaning off the private car, and replacing it with a fast, electric, autonomous transport network alongside buses and trains.

While the Jewish public suffers from faltering public transportation, the Arab public is left even farther behind. Awareness of the need for public transportation has risen in recent years, and is perceived as a means for more correct integration of the Arab population – especially women – in the economy, but the gaps are still huge. Without an accessible and available bus and train system, Arab women will not integrate into the economy, and thus poverty in Arab society will be perpetuated.

The central position of women in society

Women’s movements around the world have become the backbone of the struggle for social change, and the struggle for the environment. The women’s movement in Argentina, for example, recently succeeded in forcing the parliament to enact a law permitting abortions. In Chile, the women’s movement was a key factor in the struggle for repealing the constitution left by the dictator Pinochet, and the writing of a new democratic constitution. The most influential women’s movement is #MeToo in the United States, which has brought the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront, forcing harassers, celebrities, and those in power to pay a heavy personal and public price for their actions. Women are a key factor in Biden’s recent US election victory. It is no coincidence that the new president appointed women to top positions, such as Janet Yellen as secretary of the treasury, and Kamala Harris, who was elected vice president, the first woman of color to reach such a high office.

The social change we are fighting for as part of the Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal sees the right of women to equality, partnership, and personal security – at home, the workplace and in the public sphere – as a fundamental condition for any substantial social change and a basis for any political partnership. The suffering experienced by women because of discrimination is a common theme for Israelis and Palestinians, even though expressions of such are different in each of the societies.

While women enjoy full equality under the Israeli law, in practice they are discriminated against in all areas of the home, at work, and in the public sphere. There is no doubt that Israel is fundamentally a country ruled by men.

In Arab society, the situation of women is much more difficult, because of the dominance of religion and tradition, which sees women as inferior and secondary to men. The participation rate of women in the labor market is very low and hence their inferior status at home and in the family. Cases of sexual harassment, incest, and domestic violence are silenced. To this must be added the exploitation in workplaces both inside and outside the villages, limiting women’s right to free movement, imposition of a “dress code” whose violation can result in murder, and even the prevention of participating in sports. All of these indicate that Arab society must conduct a thorough introspective reckoning. Violence against women in all its forms is an integral part of the violence rooted in society as a whole. Without the liberation of women, Arab society will not be able to free itself from its ills. The liberation of the Arab woman demands liberation from religious oppression, patriarchy and clan-ism, all of which push society socially backwards.

LGBTQ

The DAAM Party supports the freedom of sexual preference and full equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community. Sexual preference is an absolute right that characterizes modern and progressive society. Whoever demands freedom and civil rights, and fights against occupation and the Israeli apartheid regime, must stand at the forefront of the struggle for the right of every person to define her or his own sexuality, and freely choose a lifestyle and life partners. The earth cannot be liberated without liberating the individual, and the individual cannot be liberated as long as she remains captive in a society governed by traditions and customs that do not conform to the most fundamental democratic principles and human rights.

Culture

A society without an independent, critical, and open culture condemns itself to a dark future. Without devoting resources to culture and the protection of creative freedom, Israeli and Palestinian societies are doomed to cultural degeneration. Although the field of culture in Israel is developed and includes all types of art – painting, music, theater, films, writing – its rate of government support does not exceed 0.18% of the state budget, compared to an average of 1% or more in OECD countries. This situation affects the artists and the quality of artistic work. When the artistic product depends on the audience’s desire to consume it, its credibility and ability to contribute to society the same human and moral added value is impaired, and it becomes purely entertainment. In addition, the government adopted, especially during the tenure of former Minister of Culture Miri Regev, a policy of silencing and intimidation against any critical work.

There is almost no art in Arab society, due to the Islamic Movement’s takeover of public opinion. This censors any works that do not conform to Islamic customs, patriarchal values, or Sharia. Society forbids its artists from creating nude paintings, or literature depicting sex. The religious establishment prevents free artistic expression, imposes severe self-censorship, and empties the existing work of any progressive content. A society closed within itself, intolerant, and not open to other cultures, is a culturally poor society, which impacts inter-social relations and increases intolerance and violence.

Arab local authorities

Local authorities are the problematic link in Arab society. According to the democratic regime in Israel, the local authority is elected every five years using two ballots – the first for the council head, and the second for local council membership. In the Arab population, this democratic action has taken on a completely distorted meaning. The political parties are in fact an arm of the Family, and the elections are not held on an ideological political basis, but on the basis of clans. This situation affects the lives of Arab residents, and leads to nepotism, lack of transparency, bias, poor management, and corruption.

Even if the Arab parties and civil society organizations succeed in bringing budgets for the development of Arab society, these budgets only pour oil on the fire of corruption, and serve the mechanisms of those close to them at the expense of all others. This situation is particularly pronounced in the field of education. The change in Arab society will begin with the replacement of the clan-based government, and the adoption of norms of democratic elections, not only in form but also in content. A socio-political revolution is a precondition for real change in Arab society, which will lead to objective and transparent use of government-allocated budgets to the Arab population. A coalition with the ruling party in Israel, whatever its identity, in order to obtain additional budgets, will not change the state of Arab society. On the contrary, it will only strengthen the families who use these funds to establish their rule.

Violence in the Arab society

Violence in Arab society is not reduced to criminal gangs. It has unfortunately already spread throughout most Arab communities. When disagreements lead an Arab regional council head to murder a resident; When the mayor’s son murders his wife, while his father participates in a march against the murder of women; When mass fights flare up following the awarding of tenders to relatives; When fights start after election day, because one family defeats its rival; When a young person is killed during a quarrel over the right of way, poetry evenings banned, and a theatrical performance or artistic performance is violently avoided – we can be certain that violence is spreading in all walks of life. Yet when society is silent for fear of revenge, eyewitnesses do not dare testify to the police – we say the entire society is ill, and cannot be cured by establishing another police station.

In Arab society, internal forces must emerge which recognize and acknowledge the existence of this social disease, and challenge the conservative leadership, rule of clans and clergy. These must be forces that include both women and men, which believe in the emancipation of the Arab woman and girl, and recognize the vitality of knowledge and science as the basis for repairing society.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy, and especially solar energy, is at the heart of the Green New Deal promoted by the Biden administration. The US administration’s new policy is based on a commitment to the fight against global warming and aims to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. In Israel, too, the government has recently begun to talk about the issue, even though it lags behind Europe and the United States. Renewable energy is clean, cheap, readily available, and has the power to transform the citizen from consumer to producer, which is an economic and ideological revolution. Instead of energy being a monopoly of the state and private companies, it must become the property of society, and a factor that strengthens democracy and solidarity among citizens.

The sun can be the main source of energy for Arab society, due to the nature of construction in the villages, which is mostly ground-level and with wide roofs suitable for installing solar systems. The Arab authorities have long been able to promote the installation of solar systems in villages and even receive government assistance for this purpose. The barrier to initiative in this direction is conservatism and lack of motivation and imagination. Arab society must be a partner in the green revolution, and join the struggle to save the planet.

Principles of sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the validity of sustainability principles, and the need to protect the environment from harmful production and consumption processes. The principles of sustainability are designed to prevent pandemic-type health disasters, and climatic catastrophes brought about by global warming. We work for these principles by promoting the issue of urban agriculture, based on the use of urban space, and growing agricultural produce without the use of extensive lands, without pesticides, and while saving on expensive and polluting means of transportation. We encourage organic farming and sustainable agriculture, and are partners in the global fair trade movement, which supports small farmers who have become victims of huge monopolies.

We call for the reduction of meat consumption and the massive and industrial growth of animals for food, which besides being cruel and offensive in most cases, is also responsible for 14% of the methane gas emissions that cause global warming.

We call for the use of green building methods in accordance with advanced construction technologies, which rely on insulated materials that save on the use of air conditioners and other means of heating that also cause global warming.

We encourage garbage recycling, instead of burying or burning it, actions that cause air pollution and soil and groundwater pollution. We work to reduce the use of non-recyclable plastic, which pollutes the environment, and harms animals at sea and on land.

One climate – one state

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, once again demonstrating Israel’s climatic and health unity with the oPt. The constant movement of people and goods between the various regions necessitates seeing the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as a single geographical and epidemiological unit. Former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Health, Moshe Bar-Siman Tov, stated that the Separation Wall could not prevent the spread of the virus between Israel and the oPt, and similar positions were voiced by senior Israeli medical officials. Despite this, the Palestinian problem does not exist at all in the political discourse leading up to Israel’s March 2021 elections, which are limited to choosing between Netanyahu and his center-right rivals.

President Biden’s opposition to the settlements does not mean that the idea of the two states has been revived, despite all attempts by the Palestinian Authority to do so. The security coordination with Israel, the agreement to receive customs, the announcement of elections to the Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions – all are designed to create the impression that things are returning to normal. As if the Trump era and his Deal of the Century were merely a small obstacle on the way to establishment of a Palestinian state as part of the two state conception.

There is no doubt that four years of the Trump administration have left their mark on the Israeli and Palestinian realities. These years have convinced the Israeli parties that there is no need to address the Palestinian issue. There is wall-to-wall agreement that the Abraham Accords signed with Arab states over the heads of the Palestinians are an achievement for Israel. The Palestinian issue has become a marginal one not only in Israel, but in the Arab world too.

Although the election of Biden did not make the two-state solution realistic, it is a blow to the Israeli right and its racist policies toward the Palestinians. There is no doubt that the Biden administration will oppose the apartheid regime that Israel is imposing on the oPt. In Biden’s program, the green economy is inextricably linked with the issue of equality between whites and blacks. No wonder it was precisely black voters that tipped the scales and gave Biden his victory over Trump. Trump supporters, the same “white supremacy” supporters who rioted on Capital Hill on the eve of the government change, know this well, and in their attack tried to turn the wheel back.

The Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal we offer closely ties the rescue of the planet with the creation of an egalitarian and democratic shared state in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The climate is one climate and so is democracy. The reality in which one society enslaves another is intolerable. The Green New Deal program is an agreement between the citizen and the state, based on a fair distribution of wealth, and an equal partnership between all citizens. This plan is based on the New Deal devised and implemented by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, following the 1929 Great Depression, caused by the stock market crash, when millions of Americans were left unemployed and destitute.

We argue that in the 21st century, this program cannot be separated from the need to develop an alternative energy-based economy, compatible with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The translation of the plan into the Israeli-Palestinian reality requires an equal partnership between the two peoples. Green policy cannot exist in the shadow of an apartheid regime. If Israel wants to be a positive partner in the international community, it must play its part in the fight against global warming and end the occupation.

The change we are proposing depends not only on what Israel will do, but also on what the Palestinians will do. It is not long before the Palestinians revolt against the corrupt regime that rules the West Bank and Gaza, put an end to the distorted Oslo Accords, and unite in support of the Israeli-Palestinian democratic movement, which demands full civil rights based on the principle of one person, one vote. Such a movement will clearly have the support of many Israelis and democratic forces around the world, and will allow the Palestinian issue to return to being a central and important one in everything related to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hence our call for democratic forces in Israel and Palestine to join hands and unite in the joint construction of an egalitarian, green and democratic society.

About the Author

The Da’am Workers Party (DWP) here sets forth a program for revolutionary change in Israeli society, based on the principles of integration, equality, and social justice