Israeli Arabs next to Israeli Jews holding national flags, Jerusalem, May 15, 2010
What type of democracy do we want? Israeli Arabs alongside Israeli Jews holding national flags. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

 

The erosion of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel has deepened over much of the past decade, according to a report to be presented at the Knesset today that examined those ties between 2003 and 2009.

The study, led by Prof. Sammy Smooha of the University of Haifa, will be presented as part of the Jaffa Convention, organized by the Citizens' Accord Forum Between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

In his conclusion, Smooha wrote that worsening inter-ethnic relations threaten to break the relative calm between the two groups, and that unless Israel works with leaders of the Arab community to institute a new policy to promote equal rights, the situation will only worsen.

The study found that 48 percent of Arab citizens are dissatisfied with their lives in Israel, compared to 35 percent in 2003. The portion of Arabs unwilling to have a Jewish friend nearly doubled, from 16 to 29 percent in the same time period.

Sixty-two percent of Arab respondents said they feared an eventual transfer of Arab communities near the Green Line to Palestinian Authority control, compared to 56 percent in 2003. At the same time, however, the portion of Israeli Arabs willing to move to a future Palestinian state rose from 14 to 24 percent.

Sixty-five percent of Arab citizens believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared to 90 percent seven years ago. Forty percent said they don't believe in Israel's judicial system, and a similar number said they support boycotting Knesset elections (compared to one in three in 2003 ).

The proportion of Arabs who believe Israel operates in a democratic manner toward Arab citizens also dropped dramatically, from 63 percent at the start of the study to just half. Sixty-four percent said they believe Israel has the right to exist as a sovereign state.

The share of Israeli Arabs who support any method, including violence, of public demonstration rose from 5 to 14 percent.

The study also noted a spike in the percentage of Arab citizens who participated in rallies, some of them not legally sanctioned, particularly on significant dates such as Nakba Day and Land Day.

The study did, however, strike a few positive notes, particularly regarding Jewish Israelis' attitudes toward their Arab counterparts. Jews' fears that Arabs' high birth rates pose a demographic danger to the state dropped from 70 to 58 percent, though the share of Jews who fear a change to Israel's Jewish character remained steady at 70 percent.

Roughly 8 of 10 Jewish respondents agreed that Arabs have a right to live in Israel as minorities enjoying full rights, but 58 percent said they would be unwilling to work under an Arab boss.

Smooha said that despite divisions between Jews and Arabs and growing radicalization, the study found that a solid foundation for coexistence does exist. Most Jews and Arabs believe in the principle of coexistence, accept the Green Line as the basic parameters within which relations will be conducted, do not intend to leave Israel and are committed to equal rights.

Udi Cohen, deputy director of the Citizens' Accord Forum, said that the past 20 years have brought ups and downs in Jewish-Arab relations, which reached a high point during the Yitzhak Rabin administration and the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.