Survey Shows Plunge in Israeli Left-wing Voters' Confidence in Courts

The Haifa University study also found a significant decline in settlers' and Arabs' confidence in police

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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The District Court of Jerusalem, last month.
The District Court of Jerusalem, last month.Credit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Israeli left-wing voters’ confidence in the court system has plummeted and is now equal to that of the right-wing voters, a Haifa University survey finds.

After a decade in which left-wing voters expressed a 44 percent confidence in the judiciary, their confidence has eroded since 2017 to 25 percent in 2020. In contrast, the public’s confidence in the Supreme Court hasn’t changed in the past decade, rating 65 percent among left wing voters and 25 percent among right wing voters.

The survey was conducted three months ago by Prof. Arye Rattner, head of the university's school of criminology and director of the Center for the Study of Crime, Law and Society. Rattner has been studying the public trust in Israel's law enforcement and justice systems since 2000.

The survey is based on 805 interviewees, a representative sample of the country’s adult population, 201 of them (25 percent) Arabs, 96 (11.9 percent) ultra-Orthodox, 387 (48.1 percent) from the general Jewish population and 121 (15 percent) West Bank settlers.

The Arab society’s confidence in the Supreme Court has declined, according to Prof. Rattner’s analysis. Until 2014 some 58 percent of the Arab population had confidence in the Supreme Court, but from that year on it has consistently declined, reaching 40 percent in 2020.

By comparison, 30 percent of the West Bank settlers consistently had confidence in the Supreme court, while only 15 percent of the ultra-Orthodox community has confidence in it.

More than half – 54 percent – of the general Jewish public say they have confidence in the Supreme Court, as they have in the other courts as well, unlike the left and right-wing voters.

The survey also checked to what extent the various communities agree with the statement that “The courts in Israel are fair.” Only 27 percent of the settlers agreed and this rate has been consistent for the past five years. And only 20 percent of the ultra-Orthodox community agreed, also consistently in the last five years.

However, among the general public there has been a sharp decline in confidence in the courts. Until 2017, 47 percent of the general public agreed the courts acted fairly, compared to 17 percent in 2020. The general Jewish public’s trust plummeted from 49 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in 2020.

Asked whether “the courts make egalitarian decisions regarding all Israel’s citizens,” 41 percent of Israel’s Arabs and 48 percent of the general Jewish public agreed.

However, only 15 percent of the ultra-Orthodox community agreed the courts acted in an egalitarian way. The settlers’ agreement with the statement rose moderately to 36 percent in 2017, but plummeted to 23 percent in 2020.

The survey, which also addressed the various groups’ opinion of the police’s work, found that the settlers’ and Arabs’ opinion of the police had improved, then declined. From 2014 to 2017 the settlers’ confidence in the police rose from 15 percent to 30 percent, but in 2020 it slid down to 21 percent. Arabs’ confidence in the police increased from 17 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2017, but then dropped, reaching 16 percent this year.

Israeli border police officers in the Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, April 8, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

In 2017, 40 percent of the settlers – the highest rate in the country – agreed that the police treat all citizens equally. But in 2020 this agreement dropped to 28 percent.

In recent years the ultra-Orthodox community’s belief that the police do their job fairly rose from 18 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2017. But in 2020 it declined to 30 percent.

A fifth – 20 percent – of the ultra-Orthodox community have confidence in the police, with no perceptible changes, while 32 percent of the general Jewish public have confidence in the police, a rise from 24 percent in 2017. Also, 34 percent of the Jews believe the police treat all citizens equally and 47 percent of them think the police are fair in carrying out their duty.

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