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Still Playing by the Rules: The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2012

English Edition

The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, based on public opinion surveys that are conducted annually in the fall, measures attitudes of Arab and Jewish citizens toward each other and toward the state and serves as a tool to monitor trends of change in these attitudes over the years. The Index was inaugurated in 2003 under the aegis of the University of Haifa and became a joint project of IDI and the University of Haifa in 2012. This collaboration seeks to contribute to the study of relations between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, to Arab-Jewish coexistence, and to a resilient democracy in Israel.

The 2012 Index is based on a national representative sample of 700 Arab citizens aged 18 and over (including Druze and Bedouin) who were interviewed face-to-face in Arabic, and a national representative sample of 700 Jews aged 18 and over (including immigrants, ultra-Orthodox, settlers, and members of moshavim and kibbutzim) who were interviewed on the telephone in Hebrew or Russian. The margin of error is 3.7%.

This publication was made possible by the generous support of:
The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
The Naomi and Nehemia Cohen Foundation
The Fohs Foundation
The Charles H. Revson Foundation
The Alan B. Slifka Foundation
Chen and Orni Petrushka

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1. About the Index

2.  Main Findings of the 2012 Index
2.1  The Deepening Rift
2.2  The Arab Perspective
2.3  The Jewish Perspective

3. Conclusions
3.1  Toughening Attitudes versus Stability
3.2  Aversion to Concessions that Would Improve Relations
3.3  National Struggle
3.4  Arab Leadership
3.5  Peace Makers or Spoilers?
3.6  The Infrastructure of Coexistence
3.7  Conditions of Sustained Calm and Stability
3.8  Mutual Red Lines
3.9  A New Formula for a Jewish and Democratic State

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The Israeli Arab Perspective

  • Israel's Right to Exist: 25% of Israel's Arab citizens deny Israel's right to exist as a state.
  • The "Nakba": 82% accuse Jews of the Nakba, and 48% have participated in Nakba commemoration events.
  • Reconciling with Jewish Israel: 61% reconcile themselves to Israel as a state whose language is Hebrew, 60% with Saturday as the day of rest, 56% with a Jewish majority, and 53% with an Israeli-Hebrew culture. Despite this, 70% believe that it is not justified that Israel maintains a Jewish majority.
  • Jewish and Democratic: 48% would vote in a public referendum for a constitution that "defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and guarantees full citizenship rights to Arabs," a sharp drop from 71% in 2006.
  • Desire for Integration: 42% are in favor of living in Jewish neighborhoods, and 37% want their children to attend Jewish high schools.
  • Relations with the Majority: 78% fear grave violation of their basic rights, and 68% fear population transfer. 62% feel that it is impossible to trust most Jews, and 56% feel estranged and rejected.
  • Government Treatment of Minorities: 71% feel that the government treats them as second-class citizens or as hostile citizens who do not deserve equality.
  • Affiliation to Israel: 55% would prefer to live in Israel than in any other country in the world. Yet, 12% feel that Israeli citizenship, as compared to religious affiliation or Palestinian peoplehood, is their most important identity.
  • Arab Leadership: A majority think that the Arab national leadership institutions truly represent Arab citizens: the Arab High Follow-up Committee (63%), the Arab political parties (62%), and the Committee of Arab Local Councils (55%). However, 76% believe that they should deal more with solving daily problems and less with Israel's dispute with the Palestinians, 63% think they do not serve the Arab population in advancing solutions to its problems, and 61% believe they do not serve the Arab population in protesting against the state and its policies.
  • Arab Parties in Government: 73% want Arab political parties to join coalition governments.
  • Third Intifada: 59% believe that "it is justified that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip start a third Intifada if the political stalemate continues." 58% agree that "it is justified that Arab citizens in Israel begin an Intifada of their own if their situation does not improve significantly."

The Israeli Jewish Perspective

  • Israel's Right to Exist: 92% of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel has the right to exist as a state catering to the needs of Jews in the country and around the world.
  • Minority Rights: 75% believe that Arabs have the right to live in the state as a minority with full citizenship rights. 58% agree that the state has to allow Arabs to self-administer their religious, cultural, and educational institutions.
  • Desire for Integration: 55% accept Arab students in Jewish schools, and 46% accept Arab citizens as neighbors.
  • Relations with the Arab Minority: 69% believe that an Arab citizen who defines himself as a "a Palestinian Arab in Israel" cannot be loyal to the state and its laws, 65% fear Arabs endangering the state because of their struggle to change its Jewish character, and 52% fear the high Arab birthrate. 58% avoid Arab areas in Israel out of fear or rejection. 28% favor denying Arabs the right to vote in Knesset elections.
  • Government Treatment of Minorities: 31% feel that the government treats Arab Israelis as second-class citizens or as hostile citizens who do not deserve equality.
  • Arab Parties in Government: 53% accept Arab political parties in government coalitions.
  • West vs. Middle East: 65% prefer that Israel be integrated into the West rather than the Middle East.

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  1. Despite the worsening of Arab-Jewish relations since Rabin's assassination, reflected both in the hardening of Arabs' attitudes and in the escalation of their protest, the Arab public holds a realistic position regarding its status as a minority in Israel. The 2012 Index found that 55.9% of Arabs reconciled themselves to Israel as a state with a Jewish majority, 60.6% as a state whose language is Hebrew, 53.2% as a state with an Israeli-Hebrew culture, and 60.2% as a state where Saturday is the day of rest. Moreover, 54.7% of the Arabs would prefer to live in Israel than in any other country in the world. Reconciliation with Israel's Jewish character does not mean preference, as the Arabs prefer a binational state to a Jewish and democratic state, nor does it imply justification of the status quo, since 69.6% of the Arab respondents think that it is not justified that Israel maintains a Jewish majority. In addition, the Arabs show a strong commitment to coexistence grounded in acceptance of Israel within the pre-1967 borders, management of relations according to democratic procedures, and relationships based on choice. For example, 80.5% of the Arabs agreed that among the kinds of relationships "between Arabs and Jews [there] should also be relationships that people voluntarily choose such as personal friendship and activity in joint organizations."
  2. The potential for integration between Arabs and Jews, two of the world's most separated groups, is far from being realized. 37.1% of the Arab respondents want their children to attend Jewish schools, 42.4% want to live in Jewish neighborhoods, and 72.8% want Arab political parties to join coalition governments. In Arab eyes integration would increase their access to resources and to a less traditional way of life without them having to assimilate into the Jewish population.
  3. The pragmatic approach of Arab citizens is also evident with regard to the adoption of a constitution for Israel. 48.2% of the Arabs responded that in a public referendum they would vote for a constitution that "defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and guarantees full citizenship rights to Arabs." However, in 2006 Arab support for such a referendum reached 70.9%, and has dropped sharply since then.
  4. The Arab public shows an ambivalent attitude toward the Arab leadership. On the one hand, a majority of Arabs think that the Arab national leadership institutions truly represent Arab citizens: the Arab political parties (61.9%), the Arab High Follow-Up Committee (62.7%), and the Committee of Arab Local Councils (55.0%). On the other hand, 58.2% of the Arabs do not trust Arab leaders in Israel, 63.2% think they do not serve the Arab population in advancing solutions to its problems, 61.1% hold that they do not serve the Arab population in protesting against the state and its policies, and 76.0% maintain that they should deal more with settling the daily problems and less with Israel's dispute with the Palestinians. Moreover, 62.4% support, while only 25.5% oppose, the possibility that Arabs will fight for civil and socio-economic equality and less for peace and change of the state's character.
  5. But the Arab public's criticism of the government is more severe than is its criticism of Arab leaders. 70.5% of the Arabs say that the government today treats Arabs as second class citizens or as hostile citizens who do not deserve equality. Most Arabs respond harshly with regard to the laws fining commemoration of the Nakba (lit. the Day of the Catastrophe, marking the date of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the displacement of the Palestinians in the aftermath), granting authority to admission committees of communal villages to reject candidates, and imposing punishment of supporters of the boycott of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and other motions of this sort. 76.2% of Arab respondents in 2011 felt these laws weakened their confidence in coexistence with Jews, and 75.6% reported that these laws diminished their belief in Israel's right to exist.
  6. 6. The Arabs feel alienated and threatened in Israel. In 2012, 55.5% said that as Israeli citizens they feel estranged and rejected (54.3% in 2003), 62.4% felt that it is impossible to trust most Jews (55.6% in 2003), 77.8% feared grave violation of their basic rights (71.1% in 2003), and 68.0% were afraid of population transfer (55.4% in 2003).
  7. Arab respondents rejected all sixteen steps suggested by the survey that Arab citizens take so that the state and Jews treat them with equality, dignity, and trust. For instance, in 2012 only 34.4% agreed that for this stated purpose Arab citizens should fulfill a duty of any kind to the state (compared with 43.0% in 2009), 35.3% agreed that Arab citizens will accept Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (compared with 40.3% in 2009), and 33.6% agreed that Arab leaders will avoid harsh pronouncements against the state (compared with 44.4% in 2009).
  8. Differences in these attitudes are noted among Arab population groups. More critical and radical attitudes are displayed by non-Druze, the religious, Arabs with a distinct Palestinian Arab identity without an Israeli component, Arabs lacking ties with Jews, and those who themselves or whose family have been injured by Jews or state institutions (have encountered threats, humiliation, blows, discrimination, harassment by the authorities, land confiscation, displacement from their village or town). Age, gender, and level of education were not found to have an impact on Arab attitudes.
  9. A series of domestic and external developments has led to the Arab public's deepening sense of alienation and toughening of attitudes, to the point that the years from 2003 to 2012 were a lost decade in Arab-Jewish relations. The proportion of Arabs denying Israel's right to exist as a state was 20.5% in 1976, 6.8% in 1995 (during the second Rabin government that is considered the Golden Age of Arab-Jewish relations), 11.2% in 2003, and 24.5% in 2012. 82.2% of the Arabs in 2012 accused Jews of the Nakba (a rise from 65.3% in 2003), and 47.9% have participated in Nakba commemoration events (up from 12.9% in 2003). Since 1996, and especially since 2006, appreciable hardening of Arab attitudes on all key issues is apparent. The percentage of Arabs holding accommodating and compromising stances has been steadily decreasing and has shrunk to a minority.
  10. The deepening of the Arabs' distress, disaffection with the continued government policy toward them, indignation about the protracted occupation, and the toughening of their attitudes toward Jews and the state are unequivocally expressed in the agreement of 58.6% of respondents with the statement that "it is justified that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip start a third Intifada if the political stalemate continues," and the agreement of 58.2% of respondents with the claim that "it is justified that Arab citizens in Israel begin an Intifada of their own if their situation does not improve significantly." Moreover, agreement with the statement that "Israeli citizenship is the most important identity" is small and declined from 29.6% in 2003 to 12.2% in 2012.

 

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  1. In contrast to the marked toughening of Arab attitudes, there was no similar change in Jewish attitudes over the years, but rather stability and even some moderation prevailed. The Jews have remained Zionist and resolute in preserving Israel’s Jewish-Zionist character. A majority of 92.6% agreed in 2011 that it is justified that Israel maintains a Jewish majority (95.3% in 2006), and 87.8% thought that the Jews should have a right of control over the state (92.8% in 2006), and this Jewish position has remained intact over the years. 91.8% of the Jews in 2012 supported the Zionist claim that Israel has the right to exist as a state catering to the needs of Jews in the country and all over the world.
  2. A majority of Jews accept the right of Arabs to live in Israel as a minority despite their fears of the dangers involved. 75.0% of Jewish respondents in 2012 agreed that the Arabs have the right to live in the state as a minority with full citizenship rights (72.6% in 2003). A majority recognized the collective rights of the Arabs to separate religion, culture, and education. Likewise, a majority of 58.3% agreed that the state has to accord Arabs the powers of self-administration of their religious, cultural, and educational institutions (61.7% in 2003). A significant percentage of Jewish respondents were also ready to accept Arab citizens as neighbors (45.7% in 2012, compared to 34.5% in 2003), as students in Jewish schools (54.8% in 2012, up from 51.5% in 2003), and Arab political parties in government coalitions (52.8% in 2012, up from 47.4% in 2003). Most Jews prefer that Israel be integrated into the West rather than the Middle East (65.0% in 2012; 66.4% in 2003).
  3. Jews are fearful of Arab citizens and do not trust them, though attitudes have softened over the course of the decade since the Index first began gathering its data. In 2012, 57.6% of the Jews reported avoiding Arab areas in Israel out of fear or rejection (compared to 73.1% in 2003), 51.5% reported fear of the high Arab birthrate (compared to 70.1% in 2003), 64.9% fear Arabs endangering the state because of their struggle to change its Jewish character (71.8% in 2003), 27.9% favor denying Arabs the right to vote in Knesset elections (35.9% in 2003), 69.4% believe that an Arab citizen who defines himself or herself as “a Palestinian Arab in Israel” cannot be loyal to the state and its laws (75.6% in 2003), 64.5% would choose the Jewish character of the state in case of a contradiction with its democratic character (69.7% in 2003), and in 2011, 39.4% reported support for transfer of some Arab localities in the Triangle to a future Palestinian state (compared to 45.3% in 2003).
  4. Jewish respondents approved of the survey recommended steps that would enable Arabs to feel that Israel is their country and that they are equal citizens in it. Their favorable response was on the condition that these steps do not harm national security, blur the state’s Jewish identity, or require affirmative action for Arabs. 51.9% of the Jews in 2012 agreed that the state grant recognition to the unrecognized Arab villages (65.1% in 2009), 54.9% agreed that the state mandate by law that Arab citizens receive suitable representation in state institutions and other public bodies (66.3% in 2009), and 55.9% agreed that the state mandate by law that Arab citizens receive their proportional share of the state budget (69.0% in 2009). On the other hand, only 26.9% agreed that security checks at border crossings should be the same for Arabs and Jews (33.2% in 2009), only 24.5% agreed that proper expression should be given to Arabs in the state’s symbols, flag, and national anthem, in order that Arabs may be able to identify with it (compared with 36.3% in 2009), and only 29.9% agreed that affirmative treatment should be given to Arab citizens in job placement in state institutions and in admission to universities and colleges (34.9% in 2009). These rates of agreement are by no means insignificant, with a decrease noted from 2009 to 2010, however, the readiness of Jews to take significant steps to enhance equality and integration and instill in Arabs a sense of belonging and acceptance has stabilized from 2010 to 2012.
  5. Jews largely differ in their attitudes toward the Arab minority. Those holding critical and negative attitudes include the ultra-Orthodox and national-religious, 18–24 year-olds, Jews who have not completed a higher education, Jews whose most important membership is Judaism or the Jewish people (not Israeli citizenship), Jews who define themselves as belonging to the moderate political right or the right, Jews without Arab friends or who do not spend time with Arabs, and Jews who have been subject to threats, humiliation, or blows by Arab citizens.
  6. There is no evidence in the Index data and in the surveys conducted since 1980 of a toughening of Jewish attitudes toward Israel’s Arab citizens. In most cases stability or moderation, not toughening of attitudes, was found. This generalization stands in contradiction to the dominant view according to which the Jews have undergone an unrelenting drift toward religion and the political right, and as a result their intolerance of the Arab minority has been on the rise. The research findings affirm the alternative interpretation that along with the increase in power, prominence, and audacity of the radical right, the main trend in Jewish politics is the formation of a large and viable political center and the convergence of the Jewish public from all sides into the center. This shift overall produces stability and moderation of Jewish attitudes (mainly the moderation of right-wingers who have moved to the political center).

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Prof. Sammy Smooha is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Haifa and the winner of the 2008 Israel Prize for Sociology. He studies Israeli society and government from a comparative perspective, with a focus on the Arab-Jewish divide.

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On June 30, 2013, IDI hosted a Symposium on the Findings of the 2012 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations, in conjunction with the University of Haifa and the Jewish-Arab Center. Following is an English translation of a Hebrew video interview in which three of the participants share their view of the significance of the findings.

Dr. Mina Zemach
Director, Dahaf Research Institute

This survey is extremely important because our understanding of the attitudes of the Other is sometimes wrong, as is our understanding of our own attitudes. One incident is often enough for us to conclude that most of the public is opposed, or that most of the Arab population is hostile to the state.

This survey shows that this is not the case. Despite the fact that there is a decline or exacerbation of Arab attitudes toward the State—in contrast to an improvement in the attitudes of Israeli Jews towards Arabs—we can still say that the attitude of Arabs toward the State and toward the Jews overall is positive. For this reason, it is very important for the public to know the results of this survey.

Dr. Mohammad Darawshe
Co-Executive Director, The Abraham Fund Initiatives

The findings of the survey are worrying. The trends in Israeli society, both among Jews and among Arabs, are concerning. Occasionally you can see a hint that there is a bit of an improvement in several areas. But overall, the delegitimization of the Arab public in the State of Israel continues.

Unfortunately, this trend is found not only on the Israeli street but also among the leaders of Israel’s Jewish society. In Arab society, the positions at the extremes, which are held by the Arab leadership, are beginning to infiltrate the field and to combine with extreme positions within Arab society as well. No one is taking the bull by the horns, the bull of racism and polarization in Israel, and reining it in as necessary.

I think we are actually headed toward confrontation rather than to conciliation between Jews and Arabs. This is an opportunity for Israel's leaders, the Prime Minister and the President, to take the initiative and start real negotiations—internally, within Israel, not necessarily externally. Peace must start at home, between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Twenty-one percent of Israeli citizens cannot be a footnote on the agenda of the public and the government.

The government is largely dealing with economic issues, and is neglecting the political and social integration of Israel's Arab citizens. And that is really a shame. It is now more appropriate than ever. The call that should go out from this conference is: Take the initiative. There are partners in Arab society. There are partners in Jewish society. We simply have to do the work and not simply talk about it.

Prof. Sammy Smooha
Author of The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, 2012
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa

The Index is 10 years old. It indicates that over time, attitudes of the Arab public are becoming increasingly more extreme, and there has been an increase in the delegitimization of the Jewish and democratic state—perhaps as part of a larger struggle—as well as greater estrangement. In contrast, however, in Israel's Jewish public, we do not find this trend of exacerbation. This is surprising.

The most important finding of the 2012 Index is that despite the exacerbation of Arab attitudes, the Arab public is not willing to break the rules. That is, it appears that over time, the Arab public has developed an interest in being part of Israel, and in strengthening its bond to Israel, and it has lots to benefit from Israel. This is fairly paradoxical. At the same time that the Arab public supports Arab nationalism, it does not see itself as an integral part of it; rather, it sees itself as part of Israel. Thus, while there is a trend of exacerbation, at the same time, there is a strong foundation for coexistence, a willingness for integration, and the like.

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