Israel Election Results: Seventy-six Percent of Israeli Arabs Support Joining Ruling Coalition, Poll Shows

Survey finds Arabs are more open than Jews to political cooperation between the two communities, with nearly half of Jews resisting the idea of Arabs in government

A woman votes in Nazareth on September 17, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

In Israel, Arabs are more open to political cooperation with Jews than Jews are open to political cooperation with Arabs, a survey published on Sunday shows.

UPDATE: Three Arab lawmakers clarify they won’t endorse Gantz for PM

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The survey, conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, found that more than three out of every four Arab citizens (76 percent) were in favor of Arab parties joining the ruling coalition and their members serving as ministers in the government, but that nearly half of all Jewish citizens (49 percent) were resistant to the idea.

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The findings came as the Joint List of Arab-led parties decided to recommend Benny Gantz, leader of the Kahol Lavan party, as their candidate for prime minister. The Joint List won 13 seats in last Tuesday’s election (out of a total of 120). Considering the relative stalemate between the right-wing and center-left blocs following the election, the Joint List could hold the key to the composition of the next Israeli government.

An Arabic-language campaign billboard for Kahol Lavan in Nazareth, September 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Although the percentage of Arab citizens who support joining the government would seem high, it has dropped since the last time the survey was conducted, in 2017, when 81 percent of the respondents were in favor of the idea. The drop was attributed by IDI to the passage last year of the nation-state law, which is widely seen by the Arab community as an attempt to relegate non-Jews to second-class citizens in Israel.

By contrast, the share of Jewish citizens resistant to the idea of Arabs joining the government has dropped dramatically since 2017, when it reached two thirds. 

Commenting on the findings, Tamar Hermann, director of the Guttman Center, said: “The study clearly reveals that despite the serious criticism by Arab Israelis of their treatment by the state, especially in reference to the legislation of the nation-state law, here is a strong desire among them to integrate into the state and Israeli society.”

The survey also showed a significant decline in satisfaction among Arab citizens with the leadership of the Arab parties. For the first time since the IDI has been conducting this survey, a majority of Arab citizens – 58 percent, up from 41 percent two years ago – said that their political leadership does not represent them well.

Based on this finding, Hermann said: “It is safe to assume that if this leadership declines to support a new government, led by Gantz, after receiving a respectful offer accompanied by significant compensation for joining—this will deal a significant blow to the ties between the Arab Israeli community and its leadership.”

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Arab citizens said they were proud to be Israelis – the highest rate since 2003. Asked how they self-identify, 38 percent said as Arab, 36 percent said by religion (Muslim, Christian or Druze), 13 percent said as Palestinian and 9.5 percent said as Israeli.