Poll: Half of Israelis Feel Those Born Elsewhere Can't Be 'True Israelis'

Annual Democracy Index finds that while Israelis believe in freedom of speech, they oppose criticism on government.

About half of Israelis believe that in order to be a "true Israeli," one has to have been born in Israel, so finds the Israel Democracy Institute in its annual Israeli Democracy Index, published Monday.

The report, which this year focused on the integration of Russian immigrants into Israeli society, tested the prevalent notion that the integration was smooth. The findings of the study, however, suggested otherwise. The study revealed that most Russian immigrants feel that they have no power to change their immediate reality, even 20 years after the immigration from the former Soviet Union began.

The democracy poll was conducted in March 2009, and included a random sample of adult Israelis. 1,191 people were polled in three different languages: Hebrew, Arabic and Russian. The margin of error is 2.8 percent.

The study found that the mood of the Russian immigrants is generally darker, the problems they face are tougher, and that their reactions are harsher than veteran Israelis'. The immigrant sector voices more concern over Israel's security threats, is less connected to Israel, and fewer immigrants say that they would want their children to grow up in Israel.

The report found that 77 percent of Russian immigrants support promoting Arab migration from Israel, as opposed to 47 percent of native Jews who say they would support such a policy. 33 percent of the native Jews accept the existence of Arab political parties within the Knesset, while only 23 percent of the immigrants accept this fact. 27 percent of Israelis oppose the statement "a Jewish majority is necessary for fateful decisions for the country" ? in comparison with 38 percent who opposed the same statement in 2003. These figures indicate a growing support for the stripping of political rights from Israel's Arab minority.

61 percent of the Israeli public is dissatisfied with the Israeli democracy, the study also revealed. The Israeli public's faith in the Israel Defense Forces has risen to 79 percent, the trust Israel's public places in the police force has sunk to 40 percent, and its faith in the legal system has risen to 57 percent.

The poll found that 89 percent of Israelis think that corruption is prevalent in Israel. 50 percent think that politicians go into politics only for personal gain. Among Israel's Arab population, the beliefs are a little different: 66% of Israeli Arabs don't think that one has to be corrupt in order to succeed in politics. The most pessimistic demographic regarding political corruption is the immigrants, where 47 percent think that one does have to be corrupt in order to succeed.

Both native Israelis and Russian immigrants see security threats and economic factors as reasons to leave Israel. However, 81 percent of the immigrants, as opposed to 59% of the native Israelis, view the security situation as the central reason to leave the country. Only 28 percent of the immigrants feel that the aspirations they had prior to moving to Israel have been largely fulfilled. The young immigrants' views in this respect are similar to those of the older generation of immigrants. The immigrant public appears very pessimistic, in comparison to native Israelis both Jewish and Arab, with only a few immigrants expressing hope that their standard of living will improve in the future. Furthermore, 54 percent of the immigrants feel that their education makes them grossly overqualified for their job requirements, as opposed to a mere 24 percent of the native Israelis. The gap between the two demographics on this issue is especially apparent among the younger population.

The study finds furthermore that 54 percent of the Israeli public, Jews and Arabs, agree that "only citizens loyal to their country should be eligible for civilian rights" (56 percent of native Jews, 67 percent of Russian immigrants and 30 percent of Israeli Arabs.) 38 percent of the general Jewish population feel that Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens (43 percent of native Jews as opposed to 23 percent of immigrants). 41 percent of the native Jews believe that "Israel's Arabs are deprived, in comparison to Jews," while 28 percent of Russian immigrants also agree with this statement.

In regard to freedom of speech, it is safe to say that the Israeli public believes in it as a basic value, but most Israelis refuse to allow harsh criticism of its government, the study finds. 74 percent of Israelis support "freedom of speech for everyone regardless of status," while simultaneously, 58 percent agree that "a political speaker must be prohibited from voicing harsh criticism against the state of Israel." This number marks a significant increase since 2003, when the number of Israelis who agreed with the statement was 48 percent.