Jews and Arabs proud to be Israeli, distrust government
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Jews and Arabs proud to be Israeli, distrust government

Poll conducted before war shows marked rise in support for state among Arabs; religious establishment scores low on trust

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli flags stand next to the menorah, the symbol of the State of Israel, at the Knesset (photo credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Israeli flags stand next to the menorah, the symbol of the State of Israel, at the Knesset (photo credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

An increasing number of Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, have pride in their Israeli identity, according to an annual study on democracy in Israel released Sunday.

The Israel Democracy Institute said that 86 percent of Jewish citizens described themselves as “proud” or “quite proud” to be Israeli and over 78% said they felt a part of the state and its difficulties. By contrast, 65% of Arabs described themselves as proud to be Israeli, and 59% said they felt a part of the state.

The 2014 results for national pride and belonging within the Arab community show a marked increase from last year: IDI’s 2013 index reported only 40% of Israeli Arabs said they felt proud to be citizens, and 28% said they felt a sense of belonging.

Over 73% of Israelis surveyed believed that corruption in Israel’s political leadership was either widespread or somewhat prevalent.

When asked which state or government institutions they trusted most, 88% of Israeli Jews named the IDF, followed by the president (71%), and the Supreme Court (62%). Sixty percent of Israeli Arabs said the Supreme Court was the most trusted government or state institution, followed by the police (57%), the president (56%) and the IDF (51%).

Jews and Arabs reported similar levels of mistrust in the Knesset at 35% and 36%, respectively. For Israeli Jews, the Chief Rabbinate (29%) and the media (28%) followed as the least trusted institutions. Israeli Arabs reported the media (37%) and religious leaders (36%) as the least trusted institutions.

Thirty-seven percent of both Arab and Jewish respondents reported a lower than average family income and considered themselves to be “poor.” When asked about how they dealt with income disparities, 65% of Israel, Jewish and Arab, said that the current economic situation justified another round of social protests.

For the most part, both Jews and Arabs reported a mistrust in economic institutions: 59% said they did not trust the Finance Ministry and 62% said they did not trust the banks. A substantial majority — 79% of all respondents — said they believed the major labor unions had too much power.

Approximately two-thirds (63%) of Jewish Israelis polled said they opposed discriminatory treatment of Arabs; however, a larger majority (74%) said that decisions on peace and security should be made by the Jewish majority.

President of the Israel Democratic Institute Yohanan Plesner hands the 2015 report on democracy to President Reuven Rivlin at the president's residence in Jerusalem on January 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Mark Neyman / GPO)
President of the Israel Democratic Institute Yohanan Plesner hands the 2015 report on democracy to President Reuven Rivlin at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on January 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Mark Neyman / GPO)

Israel is officially defined as both Jewish and democratic, and approximately one-quarter of Jews questioned attributed equal importance to both components. According to the survey, most Jews favor one component over the other: Thirty-nine percent favor Israel’s Jewishness and 34% its democracy. The percentage of Jews who ascribe equal importance to both components has declined steadily in recent years, from 48% in 2010 to only 24% in 2014.

According to the sample, only 20% of Israelis believe that they can truly effect political change, while approximately 76% say they can influence government policy very little or not at all.

The IDI study questioned 1,007 adult Israelis representing a statistical sample of the adult population, and had a maximum sampling error of 3.2%. The IDI noted that the questions were posed to citizens in April and May of 2014, before the summer war with Hamas in Gaza and a rise in Arab-Jewish tensions and violence throughout the country.

In a response to the IDI poll, President Reuven Rivlin urged Israelis to exercise their democratic rights by voting in the March 17 Knesset elections. In a statement issued Sunday, the president addressed the extensive mistrust in the government presented in the report, saying: “The responsibility of rebuilding trust lies with both the political system and the public. The public cannot allow itself to indulge in the dangers of apathy.”

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