Still Playing by the Rules: The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2013 (Hebrew)

An Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

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  • Number Of Pages: 261 Pages

In Israel today, there are 1.4 million Arabs. What do they think about Jews, and about their lives as a minority in Israel? And what do Israeli Jews think about Arab citizens? This book measures and analyzes the relationship between the Jewish and Arab segments of the Israeli population.

There are 1.4 million Arabs (18% of Israel’s citizens) living in Israel today. They are part of Israeli society, but also of the Palestinian people, who are considered to be Israel’s enemy. What do they think of Jews, the Israeli state, and their life as a minority? Do they trust the Jews and the state? Are they willing to be integrated in residential neighborhoods, schools, and government coalitions? Do they fear violence by the authorities? Is their identity Israeli or Palestinian? Do they accept Israel’s right to exist or support its replacement by a Palestinian state? Do they have confidence in their leaders? Do they approve of a nondemocratic struggle? And what are they willing to do so that the Jews and the State will treat them with equality, dignity, and trust?

And what do the Jews think of the Arab citizens? Are they ready to have them live in their neighborhoods and be part of the government coalition? Would they agree to work under an Arab supervisor? Are they afraid of an Arab uprising? Do they accept the Arabs as an equal minority? Is their identity Jewish or Israeli? Do they acknowledge the Nakba? Do they favor the cession of the Triangle to a Palestinian state? And what are they willing to do so that the Arabs will feel that Israel is their state, too?

The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel addresses these and many other questions. It has been conducted annually since 2003, on the basis of representative surveys of the Arab and Jewish sectors in Israel.

The current volume presents the findings of the 2013 Index. They reveal a complex picture of the attitudes of Arab and Jewish citizens towards the state and towards each other. The 2013 Index indicates a halt in the aggravation of Arab attitudes, whereas Jewish attitudes continue to be stable. This finding is at variance with the prevalent view. Only subsequent Indexes will reveal whether the unexpected change is a true turning point.

This publication was made possible by the generous support of:
The Rich Foundation
The Fohs Foundation
The Charles H. Revson Foundation
The Alan B. Slifka Foundation
Chen and Orni Petrushka

The key finding of the Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2013 is that the trend among the Arabs to an increasingly hardening stance vis-à vis the state and the Jewish majority, evident since 2003, was interrupted in 2013, and that Jewish attitudes continued to be stable. The unexpected halt in the aggravation of Arab attitudes was apparent among all sectors of the Arab population; in some, positions became even more moderate. This change can be explained by the negotiations that were taking place between Israel and the Palestinians and the release of prisoners (when the survey was conducted in the fall of 2013); by the Arabs’ bitter disappointment with the Arab Spring, which highlighted the advantages of living in Israel; and paradoxically, by the campaign to cede the Triangle to a future Palestinian state, which forced the Arabs to face the threat that they might be detached from Israel and reinforced their bond to it. The continuation of the long-term stability in Jewish attitudes towards the Arab minority—which runs counter to the prevalent view that the Jews are steadily drifting to the right and religion—is accounted for by the consolidation of a large political center which includes traditional supporters of the right wing whose views have become more moderate.

The 2013 Index is part of a larger project that has been conducting two surveys each year since 2003: one survey based on 700 face-to-face interviews with adult Arab citizens (including Druze and Bedouin), and another survey based on 700 telephone interviews with adult Jews (including recent immigrants, members of kibbutzim and moshavim, and settlers in the occupied territories). This index is the only scientific tool that employs the same design year after year to investigate the attitudes of Jews and Arabs towards each other and towards the state and measures the trends of change over time.

The surveys found that, in 2013, 55.6% of the Arab respondents (81.0% in 2003 and 58.0% in 2012) recognized Israel’s right to exist as an independent state; 52.8% (65.6% in 2003 and 47.4% in 2012) recognized its right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; and 43.1% (29.6% in 2012) recognized its right to maintain a Jewish majority. In 2013, 52.1% of the Arabs (55.9% in 2012) accepted Israel as a state with a Jewish majority 53.2% (70.9% in 2006 and 48.2% in 2012) said that in a referendum they would support a constitution that defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and guarantees full civil rights to the Arabs. In 2013, 70.7% of the Arabs (74.5% in 2007 and 58.5% in 2012) stated that Israel is a good place to live. These figures reflect an end to the stiffening of Arab attitudes. On the Jewish side in 2013, 73.7% recognized the Arabs’ right to live in the country as a minority with full civil rights (72.6% in 2003 and 75.0% in 2012). On the other hand, 30.5% of the Jews in 2013 (33.7% in 2003 and 27.9% in 2012) would deny the Arabs the right to vote for the Knesset; 44.9% favored %outlawing Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) (52.0 in 2003 and 44.6% in 2012). Thus the attitudes of the Jewish sector did not change over this period.

With reference to the proposed law “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” 66.9% of the Jews agreed that “Israel is first of all a Jewish state and only then a democratic state”; 64.2% agreed that “there should be a law stipulating that democracy will prevail in Israel only if it does not hurt the Jewish state."

The 2013 Index found that 48.6% of the Arabs would like to live in Jewish neighborhoods and that 49.2% of the Jews would personally accept Arabs as their neighbors. In 2013, 79.8% of the Arabs were in favor of Arab parties joining a government coalition; 52.8% of the Jews approved of this in 2012 (this question was posed differently in 2013). Among the Jews 58.0% reported that they avoid entering Arab villages and towns in Israel; Some 34.5% of the Arabs do not believe that the Holocaust took place; 54.5% of the Jews deny the historicity of the Nakba (the Palestinian disaster in 1948).

To describe their identity, 42.5% of the Arabs in 2013 opted for “Israeli Arab” with no Palestinian component (53.0% in 2003 and 32.6% in 2012), 39.0% selected Palestinian with an Israeli component (40.1% in 2003 and 45.0% in 2012); and 17.6% chose Palestinian with no Israeli component (5.6% in 2003 and 21.5% in 2012). Only 16.7% of the Arabs saw themselves as “Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs to the same degree,” whereas 63.5 % of the Jews identified themselves as “Jews and Israelis to the same degree."

Both sides feel severely threatened by the other, but they were less frightened in 2013 than in 2012. In 2013, 70.7% of the Arabs were afraid of a serious infringement of their fundamental rights (71.1% in 2003 and 77.8 in 2012); 67.0% feared state violence (71.1% and 75.9%, respectively); and 53.6% were apprehensive about the cession of the Triangle to the Palestinian state (50.6% and 66.5%). On the other side, 59.4% of the Jews (71.8 and 64.9%) feared an Arab attempt to transform the Jewish character of the state; 60.6% (73.8% and 63.8%) were concerned by the possibility of a popular revolt; and 67.5% (83.1% and 76.0%) feared Arab support for the Palestinian people’s struggle. The halt in the aggravation of the Arabs positions in 2013 cannot be explained by increased fear, since that actually declined.

The Index surveys found that the Arabs distrust both the Israeli government and their own leaders. In 2013, 66.7% of the Arabs (but only 30.4% of the Jews) believed that the government treats the Arabs as second-class citizens or as a hostile minority unworthy of equality. Some 63.3% of the Arabs and 84.8% of the Jews expressed no confidence in the leaders of Arabs in Israel. And 66.5% of the Arabs believed that these leaders do not serve the interests of the Arab population and fail to promote practical solutions to their problems. Some 61.3% of the Arabs wanted the Arab sector to wage a struggle for civic and socioeconomic equality rather than for peace and a change in the nature of the state. And 51.7% justified launching their own Intifada should their situation not improve significantly; 55.8% justified an uprising by the Bedouin in the Negev if the Government’s plan to regulate and restrict the Bedouin settlements in the Negev is enacted into law and implemented.

There were striking differences in attitudes within each sector. Among the Arabs, the most critical and radical views were expressed by the non-Druze, the religiously observant, supporters of the Northern faction of the Islamic Movement, those with a Palestinian Arab identity devoid of any Israeli component, those who have never had positive experiences with Jews (as friends, home visits, help, going out together), and those who have had a negative experience with Jews or state agencies (threats, humiliation, beatings, discriminations, harassment by the authorities, expropriation of their land, or expulsion from their villages in 1948). No influence of age, gender, or education was evident.

As for differences among the Jews, those with the most critical and negative attitudes were the Ultra-Orthodox and National-Religious, those aged 18 to 24, those without a college degree, those whose most significant affiliation is with religion or the Jewish people (rather than with their Israeli citizenship), those who identify with the moderate right or the right wing, those with no positive personal experiences with Arabs (as friends, home visits, help, going out together), and those who have had a negative experience with Arabs (they have been threatened, humiliated, or beaten by Arabs).

It is too soon to determine whether the halt in the aggravation of Arab attitudes in 2013 is a passing phase or a turning point. Only subsequent Indexes will reveal this. In any case, despite the exacerbation of Arab attitudes from 2003 to 2012, and despite the continued political stagnation and the intensifying efforts by the right wing to curtail democratic freedoms and rights in Israel in general and for the Arab sector in particular, no red lines have been crossed yet and no party to the conflict—the state, the Arab citizens, and the Jews—has passed the point of no return. Nevertheless, continued quiet and stability in Jewish-Arab relations are not guaranteed.

Prof. Sammy Smooha is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Haifa and the Israel Prize laureate for Sociology in 2008. He studies society and regime in Israel in a comparative perspective, with particular attention to the Arab-Jewish divide.