'53% of Israelis say Arabs should be encouraged to leave'

Israel Democracy Institute poll shows only 51% think Arabs, Jews deserve equal rights; Israel ranked least-stable democracy in the world.

December 1, 2010 01:30
Shimon Peres accepts the 2010 Israeli Democracy Ra

peres democracy poll 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The government should encourage Arabs to emigrate, 53 percent of Jewish Israelis say, according to the Israel Democracy Institute’s Israeli Democracy Ranking and poll released on Tuesday.

Only 51% said Jews and Arabs should have equal rights.

The more religious respondents were, the less they believed Arabs should have equal rights, with 33.5% of secular Jews opposing equal rights for Arabs, as opposed to 51% of traditional Jews, 65% of the modern-Orthodox and 72% of haredim.

In addition, 86% of Jewish Israelis said that important decisions should be made by a Jewish majority.

The institute’s findings were presented to President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.

Nearly half (46%) of Jewish Israelis polled said they would not want to live near Arabs, and 39% would be opposed to living near foreign workers or people with mental illness.

One-fourth would not want to live near a homosexual couple, and 23% opposed having haredi neighbors.

Arabs had different preferences, with 70% opposing living near gays, 67% against haredi neighbors and 65% against former settlers. Fortysix percent would not want to be neighbors of foreign workers.

The institute polled 1,200 Israelis, with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

During a roundtable discussion held to mark the release of the data, Peres, Rivlin, Beinisch, Neeman and Israel Democracy Institute president Arye Carmon agreed that dialogue, education and a constitution were essential to preserving and enhancing the nation’s democracy. Peres was pleasantly surprised by two of the statistics, one related to pride in being Israeli and the other to the institution of the presidency.

Eighty-one percent of all the respondents, Arabs and Jews, expressed national pride in being Israeli, and 70% expressed confidence in the presidency, an improvement in attitudes toward the latter from previous years.

Peres wasn’t the only one surprised by the 81% figure for national pride.

Carmon described it as “optimistic.”

Nonetheless, Carmon said that “the atmosphere of constant crisis has stunted the evolution of Israel’s institutions of government, and precluded serious discussion of the Jewish and democratic values underpinning the state.”

The longstanding divisions within the Jewish majority and between Jews and Arabs have eroded solidarity and bred inequality, he said.

The biggest challenge confronting the government is to win public confidence in its ability to implement its policies, Carmon said.

Peres said that for the government to succeed, there had to be fewer political parties. No coalition of a large number of parties could rule as it ought to, because it was subject to too many pressures, the president said.

Rivlin declared that “it’s time that we proved how democratic we are by adopting a constitution.”

Beinisch concurred.

“A constitution is an important need.

We are a split society without a united concept of a Jewish state. We have to find the bridge that brings together different sectors of Israeli society. Every side is pulling in different directions,” she said Beinisch also stressed the importance of educating toward tolerance and understanding of “the other” from the earliest possible age.

When Arab Israelis hear how worried Jewish Israelis are about the demographic balance, they immediately misinterpret this to mean Jews see Arabs as a danger, Rivlin said, “and if they’re a danger, they become the enemy.”

There is consensus that Israel is both a Jewish and a democratic state, Beinisch said. “We have to promote both, but there’s suspicion, hostility and demonization between different groups. We have to invest a lot of resources in education.”

Many of the findings in the IDI’s index show great discrepancies between different sectors, as well as some anomalies.

For instance, while 81% of the population is proud of being Israeli, only 65% feel a sense of belonging; meanwhile, 77% want to stay in Israel for the long term.

Here are some examples of other attitudes as reported by the study.

• 60% of Israelis favor a strong leadership made up of a few people over all the democratic debates and legislation.

Fifty-nine percent of that same group would prefer a government of experts who make decisions based on professional rather than political considerations.

• 86% of the Jewish public (i.e., 76% of the total population), thinks that decisions crucial to the country’s interests should be made by a majority of Jews.

• 70% of Israel’s total population thinks that there is never a justification for using violence to achieve political goals.

• 81% agree with the assertion that “while democracy is not a perfect regime, it is better than any other form of government,” but 55% say Israel should put the rules of law and order before the ideals of democracy.

Of the Jewish respondents, 60% of those on the Right supported this idea compared with 50% of those in the Center and 49% of those on the Left.

• 54% of the population affirmed full or partial confidence in the Supreme Court, compared with 44% who said they had no confidence in it at all.

• Only 41% of respondents said they had full or partial confidence in the police force.

• 72% said they did not trust the political parties, although 63% opposed the view that parties are no longer needed and should therefore be abolished.

• 82% among the Jewish public agreed that urgent medical treatment should be given gratis, without considering whether the individual has medical insurance. Only 40% of the Arab public supports this view.

• Compared with 45% of Arab respondents, 69% of the Jewish population says that a constitution is important to them.

• 43% of the general population feels that it is equally important for Israel to be a Jewish and a democratic country; while 31% regards the Jewish component as being more important, and 20% defines the democratic element as being more important.

Significantly less than 50% of the population sees the two components as being equally important.

• 41% say that freedom of religion and speech are implemented adequately.

However, 39% believe that human rights are not sufficiently implemented.

• 72% of the general public thinks Israel’s democracy is adversely affected by the increase in socioeconomic differences.

• 54% of the Jewish public opposes legislation that would penalize anyone speaking out against Zionism.

• 50% of Jewish respondents agreed that non-Zionist political parties should be allowed to participate in elections.

• 56% of the Jews living in Israel for a long time agree that people who refuse to serve in the IDF should not be allowed to vote or be a candidate in elections. Sixty-two percent of the Russian immigrants disagree with this, while 76% of haredim reject the idea.

• 67% of the Jewish public believes that close relatives of Arab citizens should not be permitted to enter Israel in the framework of family unification.

• 62% of Jews believe that as long as Israel is in conflict with the Palestinians, the views of Arab citizens on foreign policy and security should not be taken into consideration.

• 51.5% of the Jewish sample agrees that only immigrants who are Jews as defined by the rabbinate should be entitled to receive automatic citizenship; only 34.5% of immigrants from the former USSR agree.

Forty-one percent of secular Jews and 88% of haredim agree, while traditional Jews and modern Orthodox Jews fall in the middle at 63% and 79%, respectively.

• 55% of the general public thinks that more resources should be allocated to Jewish than to Arab communities, while 43% disagree with this concept.

Within the Jewish public, 71% of right-wing supporters agree with this, compared to 46% of those in the Center and 38% of those on the Left.

Fifty-one percent of haredim think Jewish communities should receive more resources than Arab ones, while 45% of modern-Orthodox Jews, 28% of traditional Jews and 18% of secular Jews also favor Jewish communities receiving more.

• 54% of the general population supports equal funding of schools, while 26% oppose it.

• 46% of the Jewish public admitted to being bothered most by Arabs, and the same percentage cited mentally disturbed persons being rehabilitated in the community; 39% were bothered by foreign workers. Twenty-five percent would be bothered by same-sex couples, 23% by haredim, 17% by Ethiopian immigrants, 10% by non-Shabbat-observers, and 8% by Russian immigrants.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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