Public’s Faith in Israel's Justice System Continues to Plummet, Survey Finds

Only 36 percent of Israeli Jews express confidence in courts, according to Haifa University index.

The public is further losing its faith in law enforcement and the legal system, with only 36 percent of the Jewish public expressing confidence in the courts, according to a study conducted by a University of Haifa center that has been tracking public attitudes over time.

According to the latest Rule of Law Index, compiled by the university’s Center for the Study of Crime, Law and Society, last year 38 percent of the Jewish public expressed confidence in the courts, while in 2000 the ratio was 61 percent. Prof. Arye Rattner, director of the center, said these figures represent “a negative image of the legal system that is gradually becoming fixed in the eyes of the Israeli public.”

Among respondents the Supreme Court gets by far the highest level of confidence, followed by the court system in general, with the Israel Police coming in third, with only 21 percent of the public expressing confidence in it.

But even the Supreme Court has markedly lost the public’s faith since 2000, which is the year the center started its surveys. Only 56 percent of Jewish survey respondents expressed faith in the Supreme Court this year, compared to 57 percent last year and 80 percent in 2000.

Israeli Arabs are also losing their faith in the High Court. Only 49 percent expressed faith in the Supreme Court this year, compared to 66 percent in 2000. The sharpest drop in confidence in the court was recorded among West Bank settlers, with only 34 percent expressing faith in the court, compared to 60 percent in 2000.

The ultra-Orthodox community never had much confidence in the courts to begin with, and only six percent expressed faith in the Supreme Court in this latest survey. Rattner notes that Haredi attitudes to all aspects of the legal system and law enforcement “represents a culturally consistent worldview that has nothing to do with any specific event or High Court of Justice ruling in a particular week. Throughout all 13 years of this research, all streams of the Haredi sector have always had the lowest and most negative opinion of the legal system.”

The Rule of Law in Israel Index has, for 13 years, been examining the Israeli public’s assessment of the courts and the police as to whether they are fair, equitable and trustworthy. While most of the parameters measured showed low levels of confidence, one significant upward trend was noted in the level of satisfaction with police handling of situations among those who had come into contact with the police in the previous year.

There were other mild improvements, though Rattner said it was too early to tell if these represented were serious trends. For example 32 percent of the Jewish respondents said the police acts fairly, compared to 27 percent in 2012. Nevertheless, Rattner noted, that still means that less than a third of the general Jewish public thinks the police operates fairly. Only 25 percent of the Jewish respondents said the Israel Police treats all citizens equally, compared to 26 percent in 2012.

Daniel Bar-On