Middle East: Israel's Green Leaf (Marijuana) Party Could Win Knesset Seats 3/17/06

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Israel's pro-marijuana reform Ale Yarok (Green Leaf, or marijuana) Party is poised to win a pair of seats in the Knesset in elections set for the end of this month, the Associated Press reported. Two years ago, the party came within 7,000 votes of winning a seat, and this year, according to some pollsters, it could go over the top.

Green Leaf Party election logo
Headed by 47-year-old Boaz Wachtel, Green Leaf's platform is centered on legalizing marijuana, but also calls for legalizing gambling and prostitution. The party also calls for overall drug policy reform. And Green Leaf takes a dovish stance toward the Palestinians, with candidate Shlomi Sendak making waves with his call for negotiations with Hamas, the fundamentalist party that won Palestinian elections and now controls the Palestinian government.

"If it was up to the youth, I would be the Prime Minister of Israel," Wachtel told the AP. That's unlikely, but the chances of winning seats in parliament are less so. "If I didn't think we had a chance of getting into the Knesset, I wouldn't be wasting my time," he said.

While single-issue parties are nothing new in Israel, Green Leaf manages to stand out. Past campaigns have included an election jingle using the national anthem to a trance music beat, and the party's calls for settlers to just light up and chill out during the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last summer also made waves. This year, the party made the news when two of its candidates were arrested for trying to enter a high school to participate in a mock election and made news again when their legal petition to be allowed to participate was rejected by the courts.

Green Leaf has become the de facto home for a variety of youth and alternative culture dissidents, but Wachtel said it was mainly about pot. "The common denominator is the love of cannabis," he said.

About one out of six Israelis have tried the weed, according to government statistics.

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Issue #427 -- 3/17/06

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