Study: Israelis happy, but mistrust government

Official 2015 Democracy Index also reveals deep divide in Israeli-Arab relations on political level - though not personal level.

Hezki Baruch ,

Interfaith relations (illustrative)
Interfaith relations (illustrative)
Nati Shohat/Flash90

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI)'s 2015 Democracy Index was presented to President Reuven Rivlin Tuesday, the 13th annual report on several topics - including the influence of citizens in government decisions, confidence in the institutions of government departments, the character of the state, tolerance and acceptance of others, freedom of expression and equality, and Jewish-Arab relations.

Highlights include: 

  • Government institutions: most Israelis believe that corruption and negligence are widespread. 54% believe MKs do not work hard enough or perform their duties well enough; 78% believe they are not really able to influence government policy.
    • In addition, most Israelis expressed deep distrust of government institutions. Only 19% 'greatly trust' political parties; just 35% 'greatly trust' the Knesset; 36% 'greatly trust' the government; and 42% 'greatly trust' the police.
    • Of the "trustworthy" institutions: the IDF maintains its status as the most trustworthy and reliable institution in the eyes of the public, with 84.5% of Israelis placing their trust in the military, including 93% of Jews polled. The President took second place at 70% of the public's support, and the High Court with 62%. 
  • Tolerance and acceptance: Israeli society remains somewhat divided. 43.5% would not agree to accept foreign workers as neighbors; 30% were unwilling to accept as neighbors the mentally ill; 24% would not want to live near haredim; and 22% would refuse to live near a same-sex couple. 
    •  Arab-Jewish relations appear to be better than the media suggests, however. Just 36% of Jews would not want to live next door to Arabs, and only 11% of Arabs would not want to live next door to a Jewish family. In addition, when asked if there is a preference to the identity of the doctor receiving treatment (Arab or Jewish), 78% of Jews said that they do not have a preference, as well as 91% of Arabs. 
  • Equality: 71% oppose the granting of special privileges to Israeli Jews, and just over 50% of respondents oppose the exclusion of non-Zionists from politics. At the same time, most Jews (61%) support the demand to declare allegiance to the state and its symbols as a condition for an MK to be elected to the Knesset; 84% of Arabs polled opposed. Correspondingly, some 41.5% of Israelis Jews agree that non-Zionists - even if elected as MKs - should not serve in ministerial positions. 67% of Arabs polled stated that they do not feel like they are included as part of the State of Israel, compared to 10% of Jews. 
    • 54% of Jews recognize a sense of discrimination against Arab citizens and support equitable allocation of budgets to Arab communities; 37.5% of Jews argued that the government should encourage Arab emigration from Israel.
    • 85% of respondents in the Arab sector supported the inclusion of Arab parties in the government, including the appointment of Arab ministers. However, only a third (35%) of Jews agree with this statement. Thus, 74% of Jews believe that critical decisions on the state of peace and security should be made by a Jewish majority and 54% of Jews argued that economic issues and system-of-government decisions must be made by a Jewish majority.
  • Freedom of expression: The majority of the Israeli public (69% of Jews and 76% Arabs) opposes the legal ban on expressing strong criticism against the state and the public. On the other hand, security considerations trump this opinion; 59% of the Jewish public believes that the State should be allowed to monitor what citizens publish online to prevent terror. 
  • Jewish vs. democratic state: A near-even split exists between Jews who believe that Israel as a Jewish state should take precedent (37%) versus those who believe Israel as a democratic state should take precedent (35%). 27% believe both are of equal importance. 
  • Matters of identity: The majority of Jewish respondents (56%) believe that there is a contradiction between Israel's Arab citizens belonging to the Palestinian people and also claiming to be loyal citizens of the state of Israel. Among Arabs, a large majority, 76%, do not see a contradiction here. 42% believe that the Arabs have not accepted Israel's existence; 39% believe they want to destroy it and pose a security threat. 
  • Overall, however, things are looking up. 75% of total respondents named their personal situation as "good" or "very good"; 84% of total respondents, both Arab and Jewish, would prefer to stay in Israel even if they hold, or would receive, citizenship to any Western country. Of Jewish respondents, 85% identify as "Zionist," no matter what their personal political leanings. 

"The index results indicate a continued decline in public confidence in government institutions, reflect alarming trends of increasing alienation from establishment among many in the public," Yohanan Plesner, president of IDI, stated Tuesday. "The results also demonstrate the depth of the crisis in relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs." 

''Too many of Israel's Jewish citizens prefer to avoid the integration of Arab citizens in national decision-making," he opined. "The data that we present today should drive civilian and political leadership to take action and make a difference regarding Jewish-Arab relations and to promote dialogue aimed at formulating a common vision for all Israeli citizens." 



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