IDF most trusted institution, at 86.5%; faith in police rises

Survey: Israelis have little faith in political institutions after Oct. 7, do trust IDF

Only 23% of Jews and 19% of Arabs trust the government, according to the 2023 Israel Democracy Institute annual survey, but Arab Israelis exhibit increasing faith in police, army

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Demonstrators burst into a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee to call for government action to free their relatives held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, January 22, 2024. At right is Gilad Korngold, whose son Tal Shoham was kidnapped from Kibbutz Be’eri and is still held in Gaza (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Demonstrators burst into a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee to call for government action to free their relatives held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, January 22, 2024. At right is Gilad Korngold, whose son Tal Shoham was kidnapped from Kibbutz Be’eri and is still held in Gaza (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

While faith in the Israel Defense Forces remains high in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks, trust in the country’s political institutions has largely broken down, according to a survey released Thursday.

However, the survey also found a sharp rise in faith in national institutions — with the exception of the government — among Israel’s Arab minority in the same time period.

According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s 2023 Democracy Index, an annual survey of public opinion, only 30 percent of Jews polled last December expressed trust in the media; 23% in the government (down from 28% in June); and 19% in the Knesset (down from 24%).

Only 15% expressed trust in political parties — a slight increase over June 2023.

By contrast, faith in the police surged from 35% in June 2023 to 58.5% due to “the role played by police officers” on and after October 7, the Jerusalem-based think tank found based on a series of polls conducted in June, October and December 2023 and January of this year.

The most trusted institutions were the IDF at 86.5%, followed by local government and the president at 64% and 61%, respectively.

An unpopular prime minister

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s perceived credibility and popularity — already battered by nearly a year of fighting over his government’s controversial judicial overhaul — suffered heavily in the aftermath of October 7, when Hamas terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages.

From left: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi at a cadets graduation ceremony at the IDF’s officers school in southern Israel, known as Bahad 1, March 7, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Netanyahu has notably avoided taking responsibility for the October 7 onslaught, unlike the defense minister and many top IDF officers.

Last November, a survey from Bar Ilan University and polling company iPanel found that less than 4% of the Jewish Israeli public believed the prime minister was a reliable source of information on the war in Gaza.

The figure rose slightly to 6.63% among right-wing voters.

A Channel 12 poll aired on Tuesday evening found that a potential coalition led by Benny Gantz would secure 69 of the Knesset’s 120 seats if elections were held today, compared to a bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which would win 46 seats.

When asked who they would like to see as prime minister, more respondents — 41% — said Gantz over Netanyahu, with 29%.

While anti-Netanyahu protests connected to the judicial overhaul stopped after October 7, recent months have seen a new, smaller wave of protests calling for elections and blaming the prime minister for failing to prevent the attack.

A growing sense of solidarity

According to IDI president Yohanan Plesner, “the rupture that we experienced following the events of October 7th is reflected in the findings of this year’s Israeli Democracy Index: the public places great trust in the IDF and its commanders, who set a personal example, take responsibility, and act with courage and conviction in every aspect of the war.”

Protesters lift placards and flags during an anti-government demonstration at HaBima Square in Tel Aviv on February 10, 2024, calling for new parliamentary elections and the release of the hostages. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

“By contrast,” he asserted, “we found a conspicuously low level of trust in the government and the Knesset — less than a quarter of the public trusts their elected officials” even as Israelis exhibit “a promising increase in the sense of social solidarity, which is likely related to the widespread engagement and scope of civilian volunteerism since the start of the war.”

In the IDI survey, Jewish respondents rated the level of solidarity in Israeli society at 6.7 points out of 10, while Arabs placed that number lower, at 5.2, an increase from 3.6 in June 2023.

Rising levels of Arab trust

While Jewish Israelis have grown increasingly skeptical regarding political institutions, among Arab Israelis a very different trend was recorded by the Democracy Index survey, with faith in national institutions, while still relatively low, rising rapidly following the outbreak of the war.

Among Arab citizens, faith in the Supreme Court rose from 26% in June 2023 to 53% in December, while trust in the IDF increased from 21% to 44%.

Trust in local government also went up from 27.5% to 39% and trust in the president went from 18% to 38%.

Thirty-eight percent of Arab respondents indicated that they trusted the police, an increase of 21 points, while 36% expressed trust in the media, up from 17.5% only months earlier.

Hadash-Ta’al leader MK Ayman Odeh (left) and MK Ahmad Tibi helm a faction meeting in the Knesset on January 19, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Twenty-eight percent of Arabs said that they trusted the Knesset (up from 18%) and 25% said that they trusted political parties — a 10-point increase.

Trust in the government remained low, however, at 19% — an increase of only one point.

The increase of Arab trust in institutions “may be due to fears of expressing critical views during wartime… or to the rise in the sense of belonging to the State of Israel,” the IDI speculated.

Despite rising levels of trust in the Knesset, army and law enforcement, Arab Israelis and their representatives continue to complain about a number of serious problems facing their community, including economic inequality and rising crime.


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