The Unmentioned Threat

An Israeli flag is pictured in front of vehicles that were badly damaged by a fire amidst extreme heat wave in the village of Mevo Modi'im, in central Israel on May 24, 2019. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
How do we combat the new norm of Israeli wildfires? (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Here we go again.

The Middle East’s only democracy is set to hold its second election of 2019 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a governing coalition by the May 29th deadline. Pundits, journalists, and everyday citizens are mentally and physically preparing for the September 17th elections by contemplating the different strategies the parties will take this time around. Will the New Right reach the electoral threshold? Can Blue and White capitalize on Bibi’s inability to form a coalition? What will Avigdor Lieberman’s mandates look like after strong-arming the Prime Minister?

The campaigns will likely focus on the core issue of Israeli politics: security. There will be talk about Haredi conscription, how Israel can better its education and healthcare systems, and government corruption. Still, one of the biggest threats to Israeli security — climate change — will likely fly under the radar. As the election comes closer, a party could differentiate themselves with a crucially important issue by making climate change a key to their platform.

The forest fires plaguing Israel are a good example.

In the last month, thousands of Israelis fled their homes, threatened by growing fires. While, authorities cited Lag BaOmer as a cause, it is important to remember the recent history of forest fires in Israel. Ever since the Mount Carmel forest fires in 2010, which killed over forty people and displaced thousands, Israelis have been wary of the threat posed by fires.

In recent years, intense fires have forced Israeli firefighters to become reliant on international aid. One organization providing assistance, the Emergency Volunteers Project, connects American and Israeli firefighters, bringing American firefighters to Israel to assist in extinguishing these infernos My father, a recently retired firefighter, has made three trips with EVP to Israel.  While this help is greatly appreciated, it weakens Israel’s operational autonomy.

Although it is an impossible task to end the threat of wildfires, it is possible to hedge against the risk they pose. One method should be to educate the public on the danger of poorly designed and maintained open-fires. However, Israeli carelessness is not the only cause of these destructive flames. Incendiary balloons from Gazan militants — most notably sent in the summer of 2018 — have scorched thousands of acres of Israeli land and agricultural fields.

According to estimates from Aytzim, a Jewish environmental advocacy group, the mean temperature in Israel will increase by around 1.6ºC by the year 2100, which will cause more intense fires, water shortages, and agricultural damage. Aside from the environmental damage, the threat of climate change will extend the summer season — a notoriously conflict-heavy time in the area. A longer summer can only further diminish the possibility for peace between Israel and Palestine.

Moreover, protecting the climate will also protect Israeli jobs and society. Rising sea levels would threaten the economy of coastal Israel—from the ports of Ashdod to the jostling beaches of Tel Aviv to the ancient ruins of Caesarea and Acco—and flood the plains of central Israel. Climate change will permanently efface the majesty of The Holy Land. Solving and slowing the effects of climate change is crucial to Israel’s security, safety, and economic interests.

While it is not the quickest issue to come to Israeli politicians’ lips, climate change is a threat to Israel’s national security and beautiful environment. If a party wants to differentiate themselves in this upcoming election and add mandates to its cause, it must support the only climate action plan that works within the free-market, promotes innovation, and is economically beneficial to the vast majority of Israelis: Carbon Dividends.

The Carbon Dividends plan is simple. The plan would put a price on carbon and have the revenue returned to the public. Coupled with a regulatory roll-back, this plan would unshackle Israeli entrepreneurs from harmful, red-tape regulation. This policy would catapult the Start-Up Nation into the upper echelon of international climate action. Aside from unleashing the full power of the free-market, this plan also cuts emissions at a faster rate than the Paris Climate Accord.

Supporting a Carbon Dividends plan would reduce emissions, free the market from regulations, and make Israel the global leader on environmental conservation all while putting money in the pockets of the Israeli taxpayer. Even if you do not see climate change as the greatest threat to the State of Israel, you should be supporting a plan that helps a vast majority of Israelis and the overall Israeli economy. Therefore, Carbon Dividends are a political, economic, and social no-brainer.

The intense fires Israelis now cope are becoming the rule, not the exception. This election gives Israel’s major political parties the chance to recognize these fires and the other effects of climate change as the security and economic issue it is and combat it by promoting Carbon Dividends, a climate policy that will create a safer and cleaner environment for Israel’s future generations.

About the Author
Sander Eizen is originally from Southfield, MI. He is currently a senior at the University of Michigan studying Political Science and Computer Science. He is also a member of Students for Carbon Dividends, an organization which promotes Carbon Dividends as the gold-standard of climate policy.
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