2016 Israel Democracy Index: Jewish-Arab relations most seri...

2016 Israel Democracy Index: Jewish-Arab relations most serious point of tensions

January 23, 2017

The Israeli Democracy Index for 2016 was presented to President Reuven Rivlin in December 2016. The Index, published annually since 2003, is a survey of public opinion on the state of Israeli democracy. Jewish-Arab relations are one of the three major issues covered in the Index, along with the state of the Israeli democracy compared internationally, the strength of Israeli democracy as according to internal indicators (identity, sense of belonging, etc.), and trust in public institutions.

Responses were collected by telephone between May 1 and May 24, 2016, from a total of 1,531 interviewees, of whom 362 (23.6%) were from the Arab public (Muslims, Christians, and Druze), constituting a proportional sample of the population.

Overall, the Index shows a significant drop in public trust in government institutions, political leadership, the police force and the media. Most interviewees cited tension between Jews and Arabs as the most serious point of friction and described the state of Israeli democracy as being "so-so." Yet, most Israelis are proud of being Israeli. In terms of international comparison, according to the Index, "According to international indicators, the overall state of democracy in Israel is not terrible, but there is still much room for improvement."

The data below represent main findings from the portion of the Index that focused on Jewish-Arab relations. Click here to see the ful index.

  • Trust in state institutions: This year there was another significant drop in the public’s trust in most of its institutions compared to last year and the average calculated trust since 2003. At the bottom of the list are political institutions. Public trust in the Knesset stands at 26.5% (versus 35% last year), trust in the government stands at 27% (versus 36% last year) and trust in political parties is down to less than 14% (versus 19% last year). These numbers differ significantly between Jewish and Arab respondents. See diagram below.

  • The State of the People: most Israelis are proud citizens (86% of Jews and 55% of Arabs, respectively). In addition, the majority of Jews (78%) and Arabs (60.5%) categorize their personal situation as “good” or “very good.” Most Jews (71%) agree that Israelis can always rely on each other in a time of need. The Arab public is divided on this question (42% agree and 44.5% disagree). 55% of Arab respondents feel "proud to be an Israeli" ("very much" or "quite a lot"), as compared with 86% of Jewish respondents.
  • Democracy and Civil Rights: A majority of Jews (57%), and an even larger majority of Arabs (78%), agree with the statement that freedom of expression should be protected, even for people who speak out against the state. But in practice, "there are problems in internalizing central democratic values and there is a low-level of tolerance for critical opinions". For example, 71% of Jewish respondents and 23% of Arab respondents believe human- and civil-rights organizations like the Association for Civil Rights and B’Tselem cause damage to the state, an increase of 15% over last year. Moreover, more than half of Jewish Israelis (52.5%) said people who are unwilling to affirm that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people should lose their right to vote.
  • Jewish-Arab relations: both groups agreed this is the major source of societal tension in Israel. Views on politics and belonging vary dramatically, as can be seen below.

…and yet, almost half of Jewish Israelis (44.5%) support the idea that Israel, as a Jewish-democratic state, allocates more funding to Jewish localities than to Arab ones.

  • Jewish-Arab social interactions: the findings show that both Arabs and Jews are opposed to intermarriage with the other group. However, in all the other areas (contact as friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow citizens, and the like), a majority of Jews of all political orientations and almost all religious groups (apart from the Haredim), and an even larger majority of Arabs, expressed their willingness to engage in close social contact with “the other.
  • Compared with other democracies around the world, according to this new index: " According to international indicators, the overall state of democracy in Israel is not terrible, but there is still much room for improvement."

More Stories

The American Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ, a Task Force member, expressed in a press release  ...
More than 700 people raised NIS 300,000 for the Sindian Center of Beit Issie Shapiro, a leading Israeli organizatio ...