By RUTH EGLASH
A majority of Israelis believe the Jewish state is the best place to live in the world, according to the annual Social Strength Index that was released on Sunday evening ahead of the Sderot Conference for Society.
The two-day conference, which will look at numerous facets of Israeli society, kicks off in the southern town Tuesday.
Sixty-eight percent of a sample of some 500 adults asked last week said Israel was the best country in which to live, a fall of 10% from last year's response to the same question. More than half of the public (53%) said they believed that the state would protect them and their families from security threats to the country.
In fact, security came up as the most important issue among those questioned, a change from the past three years, when poverty and socioeconomic problems dominated the answers. Some 62% of respondents said they were proud of Israel and its achievements in terms of state security.
The Index also quizzed respondents on what aspects of society were most worrying. An overwhelming 81% said that Israeli society's biggest problem was the growth in violence, a rise from 73% in last year's survey.
Asked separately about each issue, 80% said political corruption was the most disturbing issue, compared to 79% in 2008; while 79% cited poverty and socioeconomic issues as the biggest problem facing the country, up from 61% last year.
In a separate Corruption Index conducted for the conference, general corruption in the Israeli establishment and among its high-ranking officials was found to be the main reason most people do not feel proud to be Israeli.
According to the data, which was collected and analyzed by the conference's steering committee and Sderot's Sapir College, 73 percent of the public said the unacceptable levels of corruption in the political establishment made them less proud to be Israeli. It was a rise of 1% over last year's poll.
"The Corruption Index shows that corruption in the establishment is the country's No. 1 enemy," commented Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, chairman and founder of the conference.
In addition, the annual Index found that an overwhelming 67% of the public agreed with the statement that the level of general corruption in the establishment was high or extremely high.
Among the key issues that bothered the approximately 555 respondents was the use of public funds for personal gain; receiving money or favors in exchange for advancing personal agendas; and unjustified nepotism. Only a handful (3%) said that corruption in Israel was low or very low, compared to 1% in last year's survey.
The results also showed that one in every 10 people in Israel was familiar with a case of corruption, and some 11% admitted to knowing someone who had recently been involved in a corrupt act, a drop from 12% the previous year.
The index also questioned the public on its attitudes toward several different state bodies. Some 29% of respondents said they felt the Israel Police was a corrupt institution; 61% said political parties were managed in a corrupt way, down from 69% in 2008; and 39% said the Knesset was corrupt, compared to 44% last year.
The IDF and relevant security establishments were considered the cleanest institutions, with only 6% calling them corrupt.
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