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Presentation of the 2010 Israeli Democracy Index: Democratic Values in Practice

On November 30, 2010, IDI President Dr. Arye Carmon presented the results of the 2010 Israeli Democracy Index to Israeli President Shimon Peres and the leadership of the three branches of government: MK Reuven Rivlin, Speaker of the Knesset; Justice Dorit Beinisch, President of the Israeli Supreme Court; and Minister of Justice, Prof. Yaakov Neeman, representing the executive branch. This marked the seventh year that the Israeli Democracy Index, an annual report card on the state of Israeli democracy, was compiled and analyzed by IDI's Guttman Center and presented to Israel's top leadership.

Attended by Members of Knesset, ambassadors, leading members of the academic community, and representatives of the Israeli and international press, the event opened with a presentation of the major findings of the 2010 Index by IDI President, Dr. Arye Carmon. This presentation was followed by an address by President Shimon Peres and a spirited roundtable discussion in which President Peres, MK Rivlin, Justice Beinisch, and Minister Neeman shared their thoughts regarding the future of Israeli democracy.

The Israeli Democracy Index measures the functioning and performance of Israeli democracy, as well as public perceptions of the State and its institutions, by utilizing public opinion surveys and a series of international indexes. Entitled "Democratic Values in Practice," the 2010 Democracy Index examines the Israeli public's attitudes towards democratic values and democratic behavior. Topics addressed in the report include: Israel's ranking among the world's democracies, majority-minority relations, and the opinions of Israeli citizens concerning the state's fulfillment of its democratic mission.

The 2010 Israeli Democracy Index was compiled by Prof. Asher Arian z"l, Prof. Tamar Hermann, Mr. Yuval Lebel, Mr. Michael Philippov, Ms. Hila Zaban, and Ms. Anna Knafelman. Polling for the 2010 Index was conducted by the Almidan/ Mahshov Research Institute.


Israel's Ranking among World Democracies

In most international indices, Israel ranks immediately after the established democracies, near the new democracies of Eastern Europe, Central America, and South America.

  • In recent years Israel's overall ranking as a democracy has not improved or worsened.
  • Israel's high incarceration rate, combined with inadequacies in the rule of law, cause it to fall short of the accepted standard in Western countries.
  • Although Israel's gender equality indicators have declined, it still ranks higher than most new democracies in this regard.
  • In the Political Stability Index, Israel ranks last among the democracies studied.
  • Israel scores low marks in the area of social cleavages; these divisions affect the country's democratic quality and are not diminishing with time.
  • Israel improved most in the area of institutional measures, primarily as a result of the rise in its score in the governance indicators.
  • Compared with 2009, indicators of corruption in the political system did not register noticeable changes.

The Public's Views of the Practice of Democracy in Israel

  • 60% of the population in Israel thinks that a few strong leaders would be better for Israel than all the democratic debates and legislation.
  • 59% of that same group would prefer a government of experts who make decisions based on professional rather than political considerations.
  • 86% of the Jewish public (76% of the total population) thinks that critical decisions for the state should be made by the Jewish majority.
  • 53% of the Jewish public also believe that the State is entitled to encourage the emigration of Arabs.
  • 70% of Israel's population thinks that there is no justification whatsoever for using violence in order to achieve political goals.
  • 81% of the population agrees with the assertion that "democracy is not a perfect regime, but it is better than any other form of government." However, 55% of the public believes that Israel should put observing the law and public order before the ideals of democracy. Of the Jewish respondents, 60% of those on the political right supported this idea compared with 50% of those in the center and 49% of those on the left.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the highest, the Jewish public awards Israel's democracy an average grade of 5.4, while immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) award it a slightly higher grade (5.6), and the average grade awarded to it by the Arab public (5.1) is slightly lower.
  • 47% of the Jewish public disagrees with the assessment that Israel used to be more democratic than it is today.

Confidence in Institutions

  • 54%, slightly more than half the general population in Israel today, state that they have full or partial confidence in the Supreme Court, compared with 44% who claim that they have no confidence in it at all.
  • Only 41% of respondents said that they have full or partial confidence in the police force.
  • 72% of the population say that they do not trust the political parties, although a 63% majority oppose the view that parties are no longer needed and should therefore be abolished.
  • The institution of the President continues to improve its image; this year 70% of the population expressed confidence in it.

Democratic Principles in Practice

  • 82% of the Jewish public agrees that urgent medical treatment should be given gratis, without considering whether the individual has medical insurance or not. Only 40% of the Arab public supports this view.
  • Compared with 45% of Arab respondents, 69% of the Jewish population claims that the constitution is important to them.
  • 43% of the general population feels that it is equally important for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic country, while 31% regards the Jewish component as being more important, and only 20% defines the democratic element as being more important.
  • 41% of the population believes that freedom of religion and speech are implemented adequately; however, 39% believe that human rights are not sufficiently implemented.
  • 72% of the general public thinks that Israel's democracy is adversely affected by the increase in socio-economic gaps.
  • 54% of the Jewish public opposes the view that legislation should be passed penalizing anyone who speaks out against Zionism.
  • 50% of the Jewish respondents agree that it is important to allow non-Zionist political parties to participate in elections.
  • 56% of veteran Israelis agree that people who have refused to serve in the IDF should not be allowed to vote or stand in elections. 62% of immigrants from the FSU disagree with this, while 76% of the ultra-Orthodox public rejects the idea.

Views on Citizenship

  • 51% of the general public approves of equality of rights between Jews and Arabs. The more Orthodox the group, the greater the opposition to equal rights between Jews and Arabs: only 33.5% of secular Jews oppose this, compared with 51% of traditional Jews, 65% of Orthodox Jews and 72% of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
  • 67% of the Jewish public believe that close relatives of Arabs should not be permitted to enter Israel under of the rubric of family unification.
  • Almost two-thirds (62%) of Jews believe that as long as Israel is in conflict with the Palestinians, the views of Arab citizens of Israel on foreign policy and security matters should not be taken into consideration.
  • 51.5% of the Jewish sample agrees that only immigrants who are Jewish as defined by Halakha should be entitled to receive Israeli citizenship automatically, while only 34.5% of immigrants from the FSU agree with it. By segmentation, 41% of secular Jews and 88% of ultra-Orthodox agree, while traditional Jews and Orthodox Jews fall in the middle, with 63% and 79% respectively.

Equality in the Allocation of Resources

  • 55% of the general public thinks that more resources should be allocated to Jewish municipalities than to Arab municipalities, while a 42% minority disagrees with this statement.
  • Within the Jewish public, 71% of right-wing supporters agree that more resources should be allocated to Jewish municipalities than to Arab municipalities, as compared to 46% of centrists and 38% of leftists. When segmented by degree of religious observance, 51% of ultra-Orthodox Jews agree with the statement, while 45% of Orthodox Jews, 28% of traditional Jews, and 18% of secular Jews agree with it.
  • 39% of the general population supports equal funding of religious services while 35% oppose it. Taking only the Jewish population into account, 41% support equal funding of religious services, while 33% oppose it.
  • 54% of the general population supports equal funding of schools, while 26% oppose it.

The Extent of Tolerance for Neighbors who are "Other"

  • 46% of the Jewish public admitted to being most bothered by the possibility of having Arabs as neighbors. This was followed equally by people with mental illness being treated in the community and foreign workers (39% each). 25% would be bothered by same-sex couples, 23% by ultra-Orthodox Jews, 17% by Ethiopian immigrants, 10% by non-Sabbath observers, and 8% by immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.
  • The Arab public is less tolerant than Jews of neighbors who are "Other." 70% thought the least desirable neighbors would be same-sex couples and 67% were opposed to having ultra-Orthodox Jews as neighbors, followed closely by 65% who would be opposed to former settlers. 48% answered that the most "tolerable" neighbors would be foreign workers.

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