The IDI's 2009 Democracy Index was handed to President Shimon Peres Monday. The survey was carried out in March 2009 on a sample representative of the adult population in Israel of 1,191 respondents. The respondents were interviewed in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. The sampling error is 2.8%.
Around half of the public feel that they are unable to influence government policy, but almost 80% feel that they are able to change things in different frameworks in which they live, work or study. It should be emphasized that among immigrants the sense of influence is the lowest, with more than 40% of them feeling that they have no ability to change things within any of these frameworks.
The Israeli public believes in freedom of expression as a general value, but for the most part refuses to allow harsh criticism to be expressed against the state. 74% support “Freedom of expression for everyone, regardless of their opinions.” However, 58% agree that “political speech should not be permitted to express harsh criticism of the state of Israel.” This is a significant increase as compared to 48% in 2003.
Growing support for denying Arabs' rights
53% of the Jewish public supports encouraging Arabs to emigrate from Israel. 77% of immigrants support this idea, compared with 47% of the veteran public. 33% of veteran Jews are accepting of the inclusion of Arab parties in the government, by comparison with 23% of immigrants.
Only 27% of respondents objected to the statement that there should be “a Jewish majority in decisions relating to the fate of the country,” by comparison with 2003, when 38% objected to this statement. These figures indicate relatively broad support for decreasing the political rights of Israel’s Arab minority.
54% of the general public (Jews and Arabs) agrees that “only citizens who are loyal to the state are entitled to benefit from civil rights” (56% of the veterans, 67% of immigrants and 30% of the Arabs). 38% of the entire Jewish public believe that Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens (43% of the veterans hold this belief, versus 23% of immigrants). In addition, 41% of veteran Jews are of the opinion that “Israeli Arabs face greater discrimination than Jewish Israelis,” compared to 28% of immigrants holding this view.
FSU immigrants more hawkish
The use of violence: 33% of immigrants from the FSU think that political violence is legitimate, as compared to 35% of Israeli Arabs and 22% of veteran Israelis. Among the general public, the greatest legitimacy is given to the use of political violence by young people aged 18 to 30, at 27%.
Evacuating settlements: 48% of Israelis are not prepared to evacuate any settlements within the framework of a permanent agreement; 37% are prepared for the evacuation of isolated settlements; and 15% are prepared to evacuate all the settlements over the green line.
The position of the immigrants from the FSU is more hawkish than that of the general Jewish public: 64% are not prepared for settlements to be evacuated in the framework of a permanent agreement; 30% are prepared for the evacuation of isolated settlements; and 6% are prepared to evacuate all the settlements.
Desire to live in Israel
In the 31-40 age group (parents of children up to the age of 18), 80% of veteran Israelis are certain that they want to raise their children in Israel, compared to only 28% of immigrants from the FSU. 92% of the veterans have some degree of desire to see their “children or grandchildren live in Israel”, as compared to 74% of immigrants.
In light of the weight that the immigrant population gives to security issues, it is possible that one of the explanations for these findings is that more than half of the immigrants from the FSU live in peripheral settlements in the north and south, which have suffered from an insecure security situation and have lived under considerable threat in recent years.
Among immigrants from the FSU, there is a significant reduction in the percentage of people who are certain that they want to live in Israel. This trend is particularly notable among young people, with only 48% of immigrants up to the age of 40 being certain that they want to live here (as compared to 59% in 2007). A decrease in the desire to live in Israel was also characteristic of young veteran Israelis at the end of the Second Lebanon War, but this group has seen an impressive recovery, and as of 2009 the level has returned to pre-2006 figures (80%).
Both immigrants and veterans cite security and economic conditions as the primary reasons that they would leave the country, although 81% of immigrants—as opposed to 59% of veteran Israelis—claim that the security situation is the main reason for wanting to leave Israel.
Approximately half of Israelis feel that the important condition for being “really Israeli” is to be born in Israel.