Nearly half of Israelis say leadership is corrupt

The institutions viewed by the majority of the public as corrupt include the national government (72%), municipalities (69%) and the Knesset (66%).

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December 3, 2018 13:32
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to reporters, October 9, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to reporters, October 9, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Close to half of Israelis – 47% – believe the country’s  leadership is corrupt, but only 23% of Likud supporters think so, according to the 16th annual Israel Democracy Index conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute.

The poll found that Israel’s leadership is deemed more corrupt depending on where respondents are on the political spectrum, with only 15% of Bayit Yehudi voters considering it corrupt, compared to Likud (23%), United Torah Judaism (37%), Kulanu (38%), Shas (40%), Yesh Atid (58%), Zionist Union (67%), Joint List (67%) and Meretz (78%).

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The institutions viewed by the majority of the public as corrupt include the national government (72%), municipalities (69%), the Knesset (66%), the Rabbinate and Sharia Court (66%) and the media (58%).
Netanyahu's legal woes grow as police seek new bribery charges, December 3, 2018 (Reuters)

The IDF is the most trusted institution by the general public (78%), followed by the president (61%) and the Supreme Court (52%). The attorney-general, who will decide the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is trusted by 42% of the public. Notwithstanding Netanyahu’s attacks, trust in the Israel Police went up from 42% in 2017 to 52%.

The four institutions least trusted by the Israeli public (Jews and Arabs) are the media (31%), the government (30.5%), the Knesset (27.5%) and political parties (16%).

The study, based on a representative sample of 1,041 respondents in face-to-face interviews, is considered the most comprehensive annual poll about Israeli society and democracy, and this year asked additional questions about political corruption.

There have been too many negative campaigns in Israeli society that have contributed to rifts and loss of confidence in state institutions, President Reuven Rivlin said on Monday after being presented with the Democracy Index.

Rivlin said it is very troubling that most Israelis do not believe the officials for whom they voted can be trusted. He said democracy cannot exist without trust, and urged that trust be restored between Jews and Arabs, Right and Left and between the citizens and their elected officials.

He also criticized politicians who distort the reality of the relationship on the ground between Jews and Arabs, as findings indicate that a large percentage of Arabs want to integrate into mainstream Israeli society and a large percentage of Jews are willing to accept them.

Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research head Prof. Tamar Hermann told The Jerusalem Post that trust in government is low in democracies around the world, including in the US, where trust in Congress is only between eight and 12%. She said she was also not surprised by her study’s findings on the media, saying that distrust in the media is skewed by the Right, among whom some 70% do not trust the media.

“The issue of fake news is deeply inculcated into Israeli society,” she said, adding that the Right and Left have different reasons for distrusting the government.


When asked what the most important quality is in a politician, 38% of Israelis said integrity and honesty, 24% said the ability to get things done, 19% cited keeping promises to voters, and only 13.5% defined ideology as most important.

Asked whether one has to be corrupt to reach the top in Israel, only 37% answered in the affirmative, substantially fewer people than in previous years. Two-thirds of the Right did not agree with this statement, compared with 55% among centrist voters.

Only 42% of Israelis reported that they would consider voting for a party even if the party leader was suspected of corruption, while 38% reported that this would not influence their decision and 16% said that corruption suspicions would increase the likelihood that they would vote for the party. Among Likud voters, 55% said hypothetical corruption allegations against the leader of their party would not influence how they vote.

Fifty-two percent of Israelis think that the ongoing corruption investigations of their leadership testify to the strength of Israel’s democracy, while 40% think that they reflect its weakness. Most Israelis (60%) think that the corruption investigations are biased, and that not all suspects are treated equally. Some 42% think that the corruption investigations are overblown and 57% that they are justified.

Taking a look at corruption scores on international indexes, on the World Bank’s Rule of Law Index, Israel’s ranking dropped by three places compared to last year to 39 out of 209 countries surveyed. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Israel’s scores have dropped over the past year to 32nd place out of 180. On the World Bank’s Control of Corruption Index, which examines the level of corruption at the local and regional levels, and the influence of elites and of private interests on the country’s conduct, Israel improved by 2.5 points, ranking 39th out of 209 countries.

All political camps in Israel see the peace process as a lower priority than corruption for the government to deal with. Out of six issues, it was ranked sixth by the Right and Center, and third on the Left after cleaning up corruption and closing the socio-political gap.

When asked what the biggest divide is in Israeli society, 36% said the gap between Right and Left, which has quadrupled since 2012, when only 9% said so.
Hermann said at the President’s Residence that the political polarization of Israeli Jews is a dangerous process that reflects an inability to reach consensus on what could be regarded as the common good.

The percentage of Israelis defining themselves as right-wing is 55%, centrist 39% and Left is only 16%.

When presenting the Democracy Index to Rivlin, IDI President Yohanan Plesner, a former Kadima MK, noted that the public has more faith in professionals who are responsible and have experience, than in politicians.

Elected officials should study the index and learn from it, he said.

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