Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut
Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther HayutEsty Dazyubov, TPS

Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) President Yohanan Plesner, and Director of IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, Prof. Tamar Hermann, on Tuesday presented the 2019 Israeli Democracy Index to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

The survey found that the IDF remains the most trusted Israeli institution, and is trusted by 90% of Jewish Israelis.

In second place is the President's office, trusted by 71% of Jewish Israelis, and the Supreme Court, trusted by a bare majority (55%). Less than half of Jewish Israelis trust the police (44%) and the media (36%). At the bottom of the list are the government and Knesset (30% each) and political parties (14%).

In December 2019, the Israeli Voice Index of the Guttman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute also tested public trust in the Attorney General's Office: 46.5% of Jewish Israelis said they trust Avichai Mandelblit, and a similar percentage (42%) – the State Prosecution.

Similar to in previous years, the general public’s assessment (Jews and Arabs) of Israel’s overall situation continues to be positive: 50% believe that the overall situation is good or very good (down 3% from last year); 34% think that Israeli democracy is good or very good, as compared with 35% who rate it as either bad or very bad. Among Jewish Israelis, 68% of right-wing respondents, 42% of the centerist respondents, and 24% of the left-wing respondents believe think that the situation is good or very good. Additionally, 84% of Jewish and Arab Israelis would choose to live in Israel even if offered US or Western European citizenship.

When it comes to welfare, 63% of Israelis think that the State fails to care for the welfare of its citizens, while 63.5% of Israelis think the State keeps its citizens safe.

Regarding whether Israel is a Jewish or democratic state, 65% of Israelis think that the two components are not balanced: 41% of Jewish Israelis and 76% of Arab Israelis think that the Jewish component is too strong. Among Jewish Israelis – 64% of secular Jews (up from 61% in 2017) think that the Jewish component is too strong, while 64% among the haredi population (up from 59% in 2017) think that the democratic component is too strong.

In addition, for the second consecutive year, Israelis believe that the strongest tension in their society is between the right and the left (37.5% ) –– up 5.5% compared to the 2018 survey, while, 27% think that the strongest tension is between Jews and Arabs (down 3% from 2018).

A large majority of Jewish Israelis (82.5%) believes that the IDF upholds a high level of moral conduct during combat and greatly values its operational capacity (77%). On the other hand, when it comes to matters relating to budgetary management, the welfare of conscripts and gender equality in the military, the public’s views towards the IDF are significantly lower – 32%, 43% and 46%, respectively.

Approximately one third of Jewish Israelis (32%) and the majority of Arab Israelis (58%) believe that defense establishment leaders exaggerate security threats in order to demand increases in the security budget. Agreement with the possibility that defense leaders have exaggerated security threats for budgetary purposes depends on respondents' political self-identification - 47% of the left, 29.5% of the center and 29% of the right (among Jewish Israelis).

When asked about the judicial system, 50% of Israelis said they think that it is in a good state. At the same time, 50% of Jewish Israelis and 42% of Arab Israelis think that the courts do not give equal treatment to everyone appearing before them.

A full 59% of Israelis think that the legal rulings of Supreme Court justices are influenced by their political views. Among Jewish Israelis this opinion is held predominantly by those with right-wing views (78%) and the haredim (85%). Only 36.5% of left-wing and 46% of secular Jews agree.

Interestingly, only 41% of Jewish Israelis, but 68% of Arab Israelis, believe that the health system provides equal treatment to all patients, from all backgrounds and from every sector.

A full 60% of the Jewish Israeli public believe that the Israeli government should not take into account the views of the Diaspora Jews when making important decisions (up from 46.5% in 2014), while 38% believe the government should consider their positions.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said: "For a year now, a transition government has been in place in Israel. For a year now, the security, economic, social and diplomatic challenges that lie before us are not receiving the attention they would deserve from a stable government. One does not need to be an expert to understand that we are spiraling out of control. The situation we find ourselves in is problematic, and even dangerous. It is dangerous because the trust that the public holds in the institutions of democracy: in elections, in political parties and in the Knesset – has been eroded.

"Even more troubling, the political stalemate, this debacle, is eroding our nation's faith in our ability to work together and live together. When the nation witnesses its leaders spewing hatred at one another, boycotting entire communities and seeking votes via a strategy of divisiveness, what is left for them to believe in?

"The report you have presented to me, here in the President's House – the people's house – features one clear finding: the vast majority of Israelis – Jews, Arabs, secular, religious and Haredi, those who vote right, left and center – all want to live here in Israel. I am hopeful that 2020 will be a year of unity and partnership – among all the sectors in Israeli society, without any exceptions."

Yohanan Plesner said: "While the past year was characterized by an ongoing onslaught on the professionalism and integrity of civil servants and the institutions of law and order, these assaults had very little effect on the public's positions. As we can see in the Index, the public's trust in the Supreme Court is still four times higher than it is in the political parties. Politicians who hasten to attack law enforcement institutions in the name of 'the people' would be well advised to think twice before doing so."

Prof. Tamar Hermann added: "This year’s Index reflects a deteriorated rate in Israeli citizen’s satisfaction with the State’s functionality, in particular the political system to the point that it is perceived as damaging Israeli democracy’s resilience. In each category we found that association with a political side was indicative of peoples answers – so that when someone from the right-wing was satisfied then someone on the left-wing was dissatisfied and visa-versa. Nevertheless, Israelis do not prefer moving elsewhere and registered high levels of a sense of belonging to the Israeli collective as well as deep interest in the affairs of the State."

The survey included 1,014 interviewees (852 Jews and others, and 162 Arabs), who constitute a representative sample of the adult Israeli population. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was 3.1%± at a confidence level of 95%.