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Marijuana party heads for Knesset

The Jewish Telegraph, 17th March 2006

DRESSED in khaki pants and a sweatshirt, the chairman of Israel's pro-marijuana Green Leaf party takes a drag from his cigarette.

"If it was up to the youth, I would be the Prime Minister of Israel," Boaz Wachtel says in his Tel Aviv office.

That may be a pipedream, but the prospect of Wachtel and his party getting into parliament is not.

Some pollsters say Green Leaf - buoyed by support from young, urban, secular Israelis - could win three seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 28 election, leading the charge of small parties.

In 2003, the ultra-liberal party, whose platform includes legalising marijuana, gambling and prostitution, was just 7,000 votes short of a place in parliament. This time, Wachtel promises to break through.

"If I didn't think we had a chance of getting into the Knesset, I wouldn't be wasting my time," he said. Another Green Leaf candidates, Shlomi Sendak, who lives in a tepee in the Negev and works as an alternative medicine healer, promises to negotiate with Hamas if he gets the chance.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu said his Likud Party was unlikely to join an Israeli government under Ehud Olmert.

The diplomatic platform presented by Olmert and his Kadima Party are irreconcilable with the Likud's views, he added.

"Of course, we will not be able to sit in a government based on such principles," Netanyahu told the newspaper Ma'ariv. Netanyahu, who quit the government in protest at last year's Gaza Strip withdrawal, is opposed to further unilateral West Bank withdrawals if peace talks with the Palestinians remain stalled.

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