Almost Half of All Israelis Fear ‘Grave Danger' to Democracy in Their Country

Nearly half of the respondents to the Israel Democracy Institute's poll said they thought the Israeli government is 'very' corrupt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Hanukkah celebration in Ramat Gan, December 2, 2018.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Close to half of the Israeli public believes that democracy in the country is in “grave danger,” according to a report published on Monday by a leading research institute.

The Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute found in its annual report, based on a poll, that 22.5 percent of Israelis “strongly agree” and 23.5 percent “somewhat agree” with this description of the state of democracy in their country.

Among Jewish respondents, 41 percent were in agreement, while among Arab respondents, 70 percent were.

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Among Jewish respondents, 75 percent of those who identify with the left said they feared for the future of democracy in Israel, compared with 54 percent in the center, and only 28 percent on the right. In each one of the categories, the percentage was higher than a year ago.

The findings were published in the annual Israeli Democracy Index, the flagship study of the IDI.

More than two-thirds of the Arab respondents (67 percent) said they did not think that the Israeli government treats its Arab citizens democratically. Among Jewish respondents, however, only 23 percent thought that Arab citizens suffer from discrimination. Still, more than half the Arab respondents (51 percent) said they were proud to be Israeli (compared with 88 percent of Jewish respondents), even though this was lower than in recent years. About two-thirds of both Jewish and Arab respondents said that they believed that Arab citizens want to integrate into Israeli society.

Among Jewish respondents, 47 percent said they believed that citizens unwilling to affirm that Israel is the nation-state of Jewish people should lose their right to vote.

Close to half of the respondents (47 percent) said they thought that Israel’s leadership was either “quite” or “very” corrupt. The findings were published a day after police recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for taking bribes in the investigation dubbed Case 4000. It is the third case in which police have recommended charging the prime minister with bribery.

More than two-thirds (67 percent) of the Jewish respondents but only 38 percent of the Arab respondents said that the state should make party funding contingent on the representation of women on electoral lists.

Similarly, an overwhelming majority of Jewish respondents (86 percent) but only a minority of Arab respondents (37 percent) said they supported legislation that would equalize pay for women.

The index was based on a public opinion survey conducted in April and May that included 1,041 interviewees, described as a representative sample of Israel’s adult population.

It showed that a growing percentage of the public characterize Israel’s situation as “good" or "very good.” In previous years, most respondents ranked Jewish-Arab relations as the greatest source of tension in Israeli society, but in this year’s report, among Jewish respondents at least, tensions between left and right were perceived as an even greater source of division.