Discussing strategy in Tel Aviv's "Green House."
A Jewish sage once said: "Who is wise? One who learns from every man." Members of Tel Aviv's environmental movement took this advice to heart this week when they met with a business and policy consultant to develop a strategy ahead of the city's 2008 mayoral elections. Their goal, as stated by activist Anat Barkai-Nevo of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel's Tel Aviv office, being no less then "to make environmental and social policy the issue in the 2008 elections."
Strategist and lobbyist Erez Gilhar, addressing a wall-to-wall crowd of environmental leaders and community activists, initially managed to ruffle a few feathers by admitting to working for some of Israel's most notorious polluters over the course of his career.As the meeting progressed, however, most of those present came to appreciate Gilhar's insights and suggestions for influencing city policy. Gilhar shared anecdotes and examples of successful attempts to put issues on the agenda, as well as methods for swaying public opinion and the political parties.
While the business/lobbyist perspective was a breath of fresh air for many, at times the differences between worldviews became evident. One point of disagreement was voter turnout. Gilhar pointed out that low voter turnout was good for the greens, as long as environmentally-aware voters turned out in their masses. Barkai-Nevo, however, noted that, while such a strategy would indeed increase the relative weight of the green vote, one of the movement's major values is democracy promotion, which means supporting maximum voter turnout, regardless of voters' political orientation.
After discussing strategy, the group split up into smaller focus groups which came up with policy goals in several fields, including transport and air pollution, the city's poorer areas, education, public participation in urban planning and public spaces. The groups then presented the results, which will form the basis of the greens' policy proposals to the candidates and the public.