Three-quarters of Israeli Arabs believe Arab leaders should deal with daily issues and not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, according to a study by Prof. Sammy Smooha of the University of Haifa.
Over the past 10 years, Israeli Arabs have become more extreme in their views toward the state and its Jewish majority, while Jewish Israelis have maintained their positions or become more friendly to the Arab minority, the study found.
According to the report, the product of a joint venture between the university and the Israel Democracy Institute, 62% of Arab citizens feel it is impossible to trust most Jews, and 71% think the government treats them as second-class citizens.
The report stated that Arab distress over the current situation was expressed in the finding that 59% agreed with the statement that “it is justified that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip start a third Intifada if the political stalemate continues,” and the agreement of 58% that “it is justified that Arab citizens in Israel begin an Intifada of their own if their situation does not improve significantly.”
It also found that 73% of Israeli Arabs prefer that Arab political parties would join a coalition government, and a majority believe that their leaders truly represent them.
Smooha told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Tuesday the results show that Arab-Jewish relations have become worse over time, particularly since the time of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
A key point, he said, is that “the Arabs in Israel over the past 65 years have become stakeholders in Israeli society and have a vested interest in being part of Israel and living here.”
Smooha has been charting Arab opinion since 1976.
Everyone in academia is saying that the Arabs and Jews are on a collision course, he said, adding that “it is avoidable, but it depends on the government’s policies.”
He said Israeli Arabs are interested in receiving the benefits that the state provides them – stability, democracy, services and so on. Therefore, he concludes, they are still interested “in playing by the rules.”
The Arab leadership is more critical of Israel than the Arab public, which is “much more pragmatic than their leaders,” Smooha said.
He noted that even though a large majority of Israeli Arabs support Arab parties joining the coalition, no Arab party today would join the government.
Due to this gap, many Arabs are not participating in the political process, he said.
The study, conducted in 2012 and titled The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, is based on an annual opinion survey carried out in the fall.
The survey is based on 700 face-to-face interviews with a national representative sample of Arab citizens and Jews aged 18 and up. The sampling error was 3.7 percentage points in each group. Arabs were interviewed by Arab interviewers in Arabic, and Jews by Jews in Hebrew and Russian.
Regarding the establishment of the State of Israel, 82% of Arabs accuse the Jews of committing the Nakba (catastrophe of Israel’s independence) and 48% said they have participated in Nakba commemoration events.
Around 70% of Arab respondents said Israel was not justified in maintaining a Jewish majority and 55% would prefer to live in Israel rather than in any other country. Some 78% fear a grave violation of their rights and 68% fear a population transfer.
Some 48% would vote in a referendum for a constitution that “defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and guarantees full citizenship rights to Arabs,” a drop from 71% in 2006.
Still, 42% favor living in Jewish neighborhoods and 37% would prefer their children go to Jewish schools.
Smooha noted differences within the Arab population, saying Druse definitely had the most positive views of Israel and that the Beduin were becoming more religious and affiliated with the Islamic Movement.
In regard to the Jewish public, 75% said Arabs have a right to live in the state as a minority with full civil rights and 58% agreed that they should be able to run their own religious, cultural and educational institutions.
The study also showed that most Jews would accept Arab students in Jewish schools, though only 46% would accept having Arabs as neighbors.
Fifty-eight percent said they avoid Arab areas.
Some 28% favor denying Arabs the right to vote for the Knesset and a slight majority favor Arab parties taking part in the coalition.
Sixty-five percent of Jews want Israel to be more integrated with the West rather than the Middle East.