PM Netanyahu with Arab Israeli leaders.
(photo credit: PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE)
While the vast majority of Israeli Jews and Arabs support coexistence, only a fraction of Jews are willing to have Arabs as neighbors, painting a bleak portrait for practical steps forward, according to a recent study by The Center for a Shared Society at Givat Haviva.
According to the study, 84.3% of Arabs and 63.7% of Jews support the idea of coexistence. However, only 13% of Jewish Israelis said they would like to live next door to Arab neighbors.
Based on the findings, Yaniv Sagee, director of Givat Haviva, concluded that “there is still not enough maturity and understanding among the Jewish public for practical steps for living together. The majority of the Jewish public is unwilling to relinquish resources and positions of power to promote equality for Israel’s Arab citizens, and to build deeper partnerships in order to promote equality for Arab society. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the Arab public aspires to greater integration into government systems.”
Among its other findings: more than half of Jewish respondents visited an Arab neighborhood over the past year, while 56.4% of them want their children to learn Arabic from an early age.
The figures for Arabs are much greater: over 90% said that they visited Jewish communities over the past year, while 84.2% are interested in teaching their children Hebrew from an early age.
The survey also found that the majority of both sectors agree that the key to advancing coexistence is education, with 71.1% of the respondents stating that it was important for them that educational training be given to teachers on the topic of shared life.
About half (51.1%) said they believe that the establishment of an intellectual and academic forum between the groups will promote constructive dialogue and growth.
There were significant differences in respondents’ answers to the question of how important it is for them to increase the proportion of Arabs in government and public systems in Israel, with 63% of Arabs agreeing compared to only 10% of Jews.
similarly, only 34.9% of Jews but 72.4% of Arabs said they would support a Jewish-Arab political party that would advance the concept of shared life, with 55% of Arabs stating that such a party would improve their willingness to vote in elections.
However, both societies agreed on the negative contribution of politicians toward advancing the idea of coexistence, with 83.8% of total respondents stating that political parties promote the idea to “a small extent, or not at all.”
“These figures show a clear picture that there is great openness – and even expectation – among Arab and Jewish society for the establishment of a joint party that will work to consolidate coexistence in Israel,” Sagi said.
Still, the study found that 70% of Jews do not support the allocation of state land for the purpose of increasing Arab communities.
Mohammed Darawshe, director of planning, equality and coexistence at Givat Haviva, said the results “show confusion among the public regarding the social integration of Arab citizens.”
“On the one hand,” Darawshe noted, “there is a willingness to cooperate... on the other hand, there are many reservations about land and social integration.”
He continued: “The study shows that the need for change should be based on strengthening successful models of a common society, exposing them to the public, and on the need for leadership that will lead the public – who over the years has stopped dreaming and believing in a common society, mainly as a result of the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The study’s full findings and recommendations will be presented Tuesday at the Knesset Advocacy Group for the Advancement of Shared Living between Jews and Arabs.
Founded in 1949 by the Kibbutz Federation, the Center for a Shared Society at Givat Haviva was created “to build an inclusive, socially cohesive society in Israel by engaging divided communities,” according to its website.
Last week, its researchers interviewed 505 Israelis – 429 (79%) who are Jewish, and 76 (21%) who are Arab – representing the per-capita demographic makeup of each group in the country.