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Nearly half of Israelis think country’s democracy in ‘grave danger’

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, Sunday, August 12, 2018.
Jim Hollander/Pool via AP

Nearly half of all Israelis feel that democracy in the country is in “grave danger”, according to an annual report published Monday by the Israel Democracy Institute.

The annual Israel Democracy Index, which examines the “pulse” of Israeli democracy, also found sharp divisions in Israeli society according to political affiliation with the chasm between right and left expanding beyond the traditional political-security nexus to include socioeconomic, legal, and religious issues as well.

The right-wing made up the largest political bloc in Jewish-Israeli society at 52%, compared to the much smaller left-wing (20.5%) and centrist bloc (22%). Arab-Israelis were considered a unique political entity of their own.

Among Jewish political blocs, concern for the state of democracy in the country stood at 41% and at 70% among Arabs. Concern for the future of Israel’s democracy was most pronounced on the left (75%) compared to the center (54%) and the right (28%). But the rate of concern was higher among all blocs than last year.


Despite fear over the future of democracy in the country, the percentage of respondents who view Israel’s situation as “good or very good” continued a steady incline reaching 53% this year. Only 16% of respondents view the situation in Israel as “bad or very bad.”

Israelis’ rosy outlook on the state of Israel today came in spite of high reported levels of mistrust for the government and its institutions. 47% of all respondents said that Israel’s leadership was either “quite” or “very” corrupt.

Israelis placed the highest levels of trust in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the president, and the country’s municipalities, and the least trust in the Knesset (parliament) and political factions.

A majority of respondents from the right said they would nonetheless remain loyal to their political camp even if its officials were suspected of corruption, with only 31% saying they would cast their ballot for another party, compared to 58% on the left and 56% of centrists.

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

Among Jewish respondents, a greater proportion (36%) viewed the chasm between the right and left as the strongest societal tension in Israel today, more so than tensions between Jews and Arabs (28%) or tensions between religious and secular Jews (24%).

Arab respondents overwhelmingly cited Jewish-Arab tensions as they greatest societal rift at 42% and more than two-thirds of Arab respondents (67%) said they don’t think the Israeli government treats Arab citizens democratically. Only 23% of Jewish respondents, however, felt Arabs suffered discrimination.    

Nearly half (59%) of right-identifying Jewish respondents thought that Arabs are a danger to the state, compared with only 8% on the left and 29% of centrists.

Sixty-six percent of Arab respondents, meanwhile, agreed that most Arab citizens want to integrate into Israeli society and be a part of it. Similar proportions of Jewish respondents (67%) agreed with that statement.

Despite the vast differences between the blocs, a majority of all Israelis polled -- right-wing (94%), left-wing (72%), centrist (91%) and Arab (51%) -- said they were proud to be Israelis.


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