Poll: 24% of Arab Israelis celebrate Independence Day

Survey shows MK Rivlin top presidential candidate; 58% would back budget cuts to Nakba-commemorating institutions

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Israelis celebrating Israel's 64th Independence Day in Tel Aviv, April 2012. (photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)
Israelis celebrating Israel's 64th Independence Day in Tel Aviv, April 2012. (photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)

Nearly a quarter of Arab Israelis say they mark Israeli Independence Day as a holiday, a poll from the Israel Democracy Institute revealed Sunday.

The survey — released ahead of the national holiday which begins Monday at sundown — evaluated questionnaires from 600 participants from various communities regarding their attitudes to Independence Day, their preference for next president, and their stance on cutting government funding for institutions that mark the Palestinian Nakba (or “catastrophe,” as the Palestinian national movement refers to the 1948 war in which Israel was founded).

When it came to celebrating Independence Day, results differed across national, religious, political, and age groups, with 87% of Jewish Israelis and 24% of Arab Israelis considering the day a holiday.

By self-identified religiosity, 93% of the secular population, 97% of the “traditional non-religious,” 90% of the “traditional religious,” 94% of the Orthodox, and 35% of the ultra-Orthodox said they celebrated the holiday.

When grouped by political affiliation, the left showed higher rates of self-reported celebration of the holiday, with 95% of the left and moderate left, 94% of centrists, 88% of the moderate right, and 79% of the right observing the day.

Finally, respondents over 45 were far more likely to celebrate Independence Day (with 95% of people over 55 and 96% of 45- to 54-year-olds) than their younger counterparts, and the numbers declined with age: 69% of those aged 18-24, 77% at 25-34 and 87% of those aged 35-44.

The poll also asked respondents if they would support a law permitting the government to limit funding to institutions that commemorate the Nakba. Fifty-eight percent said they would support the law, and 33% would oppose it. Support was strongest among those who self-identified as “moderate right” (70%), followed by “center” (62%), “right” (57%), and “moderate left” (41%), with the “left” voicing the least support (19%) for such limits on state funding.

The poll also examined the different communities’ support for candidates competing in next month’s Knesset vote to succeed President Shimon Peres this summer.

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin was the leading contender with 32% of the vote. Nobel laureate chemist Dan Shechtman came in second place with 13%, followed by Labor MK Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer with 10%. Former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner received 8% of the vote, while veteran MK Meir Sheetrit of Hatnuah received just 7%. Thirty percent of participants declined to answer the question.

While the survey indicates general popularity, the president is elected by the 120 members of Knesset, not by the public.

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