The Israel Defense Forces remains the public body most trusted by the public, winning the confidence of 85.2 percent of those polled by the Israel Democracy Institute in its annual public opinion survey, published on Wednesday. Next came the president, who is trusted by 78.6 percent of the people, and the Supreme Court, at 73.4 percent.
At the bottom of the list are the political parties, which are trusted by only 34.1 percent of the public. Second to last are the media, 46.3 percent, and third from the bottom is the Knesset, 52.7 percent.
The survey shows that Israel's political parties have lost their historic role, says Prof. Tamar Hermann, director of the IDI's Guttman Center for Surveys.
"Few people say they're members of a party, most of the public says not a single party represents it. The public doesn't believe the Knesset members. But the public understands that in a democracy, the first means of social change is by elections, and the willingness to resort to violence is very low," she says.
The great majority of people - 75.2 percent - said they neither support nor belong to any party. Only slightly more than a third - 37.6 percent - feel there's a party that reflects their views adequately.
The survey, conducted in April among 1,025 interviewees in Hebrew, English and Russian, examines the public's opinions about the system of government, the political arena, elected officials' performance and democratic values.
Interviewees who joined the social protest last summer - about a quarter of the sample - see Israeli democracy as more damaged than those who did not take part.
The survey finds that 87.5 percent of those interviewed agree that violence must not be used to achieve political ends under any circumstances, compared to 59.9 percent who thought so in 2008.
Paradoxically, the survey finds the frustration with the government's performance is at a low. In 2007 some 85 percent of the public was dissatisfied with the functioning of the government. But in the past three years the rate of dissatisfied citizens has dropped to 59 percent, the lowest since 2003 when the survey was first conducted.
The study examined various ways that people thought they could influence government policy. About 60 percent believed people could influence government policy by voting in general elections. Almost half - 49.6 percent - thought this could be achieved by protest on the Internet, 49.2 percent said demonstrations could bring influence to bear, 40.9 percent said membership or activity in an organization could be effective and 12.7 percent endorsed the use of force.
"The public is a lot less politically annoyed than indicated by the media reports," Hermann says. "We don't see rage in the public's positions, we don't see an indication that the social protest led in the direction of a revolution. There's no wave of dissatisfaction that could carry a strong, anti-government movement."
Hermann said the demonstrators look at the changes the protest has brought in a realistic way.
"The public believes the protest has changed the social discourse and the media's agenda, but hardly had any effect on shaping policy and on the tycoons' grasp of the state," she says.
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