Israeli President Rivlin: Democracy is not to be taken for granted

“Israel is changing before our eyes,” he said. “There is no clear majority and there is no clear minority.”

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December 19, 2016 18:55
3 minute read.
Rivlin and Plesner

Rivlin and Plesner. (photo credit: PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE)

A democratic administration is something that cannot be taken for granted even when there is a deep seated tradition of democracy, President Reuven Rivlin told members of the Israel Democracy Institute on Monday after receiving the annual democracy index from the group’s president, Yohanan Plesner.

Rivlin noted that there are daily reports in the international media in which there are attempts to define and analyze 21st century democracy and where it’s heading. In some respects, he continued, Israel’s democracy resembles that of other nations of the world, but with specific differences.

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Israel’s demographic composition and its political challenges are different to those of other countries.

In presenting the index to Rivlin, Plesner, a former MK, said he was not only presenting the democracy index to the president, but also to an individual who is closely tied to the same principles as the IDI. Plesner voiced regret that many people in Israel’s political system are not democratic.

“Israel is changing before our eyes,” he said. “There is no clear majority and there is no clear minority,” indicating that this was reflected in the index. He was pleased to report that for the first time, there were signs of democratic values in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community.

Prof. Tamar Herman, the academic director of the IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion, who traditionally reviews the index for the president said that it contained “points of light and points of darkness.” The recent period she said, could not be described as a golden one.

The 306-page index covers a broad range of subjects, including the trust or lack of confidence Israelis have in their state institutions.



The highest level of trust by Jews is in the IDF, with 90% of Jews and 32% of Arabs expressing confidence.

The president of Israel garners 26% of Arab confidence, compared to 67.5% of Jews.

Attitudes to the Supreme Court have the smallest gap; it is trusted by 52% of Arabs and 56.5% of Jews.

The government has earned only 20% of Arab trust and 48.5% of Jewish trust. Comparatively, the police fare better with the Arabs – 27% and worse with the Jews – 42%.

The Knesset is at a very low ebb, having the confidence of only 18% of Arabs and 28% of Jews, and the media is second last on the ladder, trusted by only 15% of Arabs and 26% of Jews. Most distrusted are political parties, in which only 12% of Arabs have faith compared to 14% of Jews.

Racism, whether overt or covert, surfaces in the index.

For instance, 58% of haredim believe that Israel’s Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens.

Fifty-nine percent of Jews are opposed to having Arab parties in the coalition or as ministers; 52.5% of Jews say that anyone unwilling to declare that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people should be stripped of their right to vote. On the other hand, 53% of Jews agree that Arab citizens are discriminated against compared to Jewish citizens.

As far as corruption goes, the situation has improved by one point since last year, and stands at 61 on an indicator that goes from 0 to 100, with the lowest numbers signifying the most corruption. It may be comforting to know that Russia ranks 29.

One of the questions put to respondents was whether they thought that human and civil rights organizations caused damage to the state.

80% of Jews on the right answered in the affirmative, a jump of 9.5 percentage points from last year. In addition, 76% of those in the Center said yes, compared to 55% last year and 28% of the Left compared to 26% last year.


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