Final approval for a peace deal should be decided by a referendum with a Jewish
majority, a plurality of Jewish respondents said in the Israel Democracy
Institute’s annual Democracy Index, which was presented to President Shimon
The annual survey of 1,000 Israelis, representing a
statistical sample of the population in assessing the state of Israeli
democracy, is looked to as a critical barometer of Israeli public opinion by
politicians, government decision-makers and newspapers of record around the
The poll found that for final approval of a peace deal that
includes withdrawal from the West Bank and evacuation of settlements, 30.6
percent said the matter should be decided by a Jewish majority in a
Another 24.7% said that all citizens of Israel should decide
in a referendum, 24.9% said that the Knesset should make the decision, 9.1% said
that it should be decided by rabbis and religious leaders, 3.8% said that no one
has the authority to make such a decision, and 6.9% refused to
The numbers were very different among Arab respondents, 45.2% of
whom said all citizens should make the decision in a referendum. A surprising
11% said there should be a Jewish majority, 9.7% said the Knesset, 9% religious
leaders, 13.5% said no one has the authority to make such a decision, and 11.6%
refused to answer.
In a sign that the image of politicians is improving,
the poll found that the percentage of Israelis who believe Knesset members are
working hard and doing a good job rose from 33.9% in last year’s poll to 45.8%
this year. When asked whose interests MKs are working for, 66.8% said they are
working for their own interests, while 25.3% said they are working for the
public’s good. Last year, 78.1% said the politicians were working for themselves
and only 18.5% said the public.
However, the percentage agreeing with the
statement that it does not matter which party people vote for because it will
not change the situation rose from 51.1% to 58.1%.
Among Israeli Jews,
the most trusted institutions were the IDF, the president and the Supreme Court,
and the least trusted were the Chief Rabbinate and political parties. Israeli
Jews on the Right were more likely to trust the media less. Among Israeli Arabs,
the Supreme Court and the media were the most trusted institutions, and the
prime minister was the least.
There was little trust in human and civil
rights organizations, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and
B’Tselem. Among Israeli Jews, 52% said they damage the state, while 36%
Among Israeli Arabs, 42% agreed and 45%
Asked how they see Israel’s overall situation, 43% said so-so,
37% rate it as good and 18% rate it as bad. Among Israeli Arabs, 39% rate it as
bad, 31% as so-so and 28% as good. Eighty-three percent of Jewish Israelis were
proud to be Israeli and 67% felt like a part of the state and its problems,
while 40% of Arab Israelis felt such pride and 28% felt a sense of belonging to
the state.Click here to see the IDI annual Democracy Index graphic in full size.
Both Peres and IDI President Arye Carmon expressed concern on
Sunday over the widening gap among Jewish respondents between those who perceive
Israel as a Jewish and democratic State, and those who attach greater importance
to the democratic component.
Within the Jewish public, 37% believed that
the Jewish character and democratic character of Israel are equally important,
32% assigned greater priority to the Jewish element, and 29% gave greater weight
to the democratic nature. At the same time, 75% of the Jewish public believed
that the State of Israel can simultaneously be both a Jewish state and a
democratic state, while 22% did not think so. The percentage saying the
democratic character is more important has fallen in recent years, while those
saying Jewish has risen.
Carmon said that the continuing decline in
attitudes to the democratic component was very worrying, and that it was vital
to find a balance between Jewishness and democracy.
As for withdrawal
from the territories in the event of a peace agreement with the Palestinians,
Carmon pointed to an acute conflict between halacha and
Praising the work of the IDI, Peres compared it to the role of
a physician, saying that it takes the pulse of society.
said that the report’s findings were both encouraging and troubling. He was
pleased that a high percentage of Israelis take pride in the country, but it
bothered him that democracy, which he asserts to be a Jewish concept, is not
recognized as such.
The Bible tells us that all people are created in the
image of God and are created equally, he said.
People may be different
but they have equal rights.
What today is defined as social solidarity
comes from the traditional Jewish maxim of “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” Peres
The Bible exhorts the Jewish people to remember that they were
slaves in Egypt and strangers in a strange land. This too is part of democracy,
This is why it is essential to implement the two-state
solution, he explained. If Israel is not a state with a Jewish majority, it
would cease to be a Jewish and democratic state, he said, adding that a separate
Palestinian state could provide a solution for the Palestinian refugee
If there is peace, he said, the statistics in democracy index
reports will change radically.
Peres was disturbed by the growing
tensions between Jews and Arabs, saying that every time a Jew or an Arab is
killed by someone from the other side, it provokes a violent
Peres said that what makes Israel unique is that it is the only
country in the world whose population has multiplied more than tenfold in 65
years, and that in that time it never stopped changing.
wave of immigration carried with it the commonality of Jewishness, he said, each
wave of immigrants brought with it different cultures and norms.
president highlighted the shift from an agrarian society into a scientific
society, as an example of the country’s capacity for change.
He said that
what he found particularly gratifying in the report was the willingness by
respondents to shoulder part of the burden of reducing the gap between the rich
and the poor by paying higher taxes.
Tamar Hermann, who headed the team
that prepared the report, said that when Americans and Europeans were asked
about reducing the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots,” their attitude
was different to that of the Israelis.
They were absolutely opposed to
paying higher taxes.