Israelis see left-right struggle, not differences with Arabs, as most significant conflict

JERUSALEM (JTA) – For the first time, Israelis said the main point of conflict in their society is between left and right and not between Jews and Arabs.

That’s what an annual assessment by the Israel Democracy Institute found in its annual survey.

Meanwhile, nearly half of Israelis again said they believe their democracy is in “grave danger.”

In the survey of 1,041 Jewish and Arab respondents, some 36 per cent held the view that tension between the left and right is the main point of contention in society, with 28 per cent saying it is the conflict between Jews and Arabs. Twenty-four per cent said the main conflict is between religious and secular Jews.

The last time the question was asked, in 2016, 29 per cent perceived the left-right struggle was the main point of contention and 48.5 per cent saw it as Jews and Arabs. In 2012, it was 9 per cent and 47 per cent.

Some 45.5 percent of Israeli Jews and Arabs believe the democracy is in peril, mirroring the figures from last year’s survey. Among Arab Israelis in the newest survey, the figure is 70 per cent; among secular Jews, 57 per cent; and national religious Jews, 13 per cent.

A minority of Israelis believes there is a good balance between the Jewish and democratic components of Israel’s identity, mostly reflecting Israel’s deep secular-religious divide.

The study, in its 16th year, examines multiple aspects of Israel’s democracy, including its structure, effectiveness and values. The findings were presented Monday to President Reuven Rivlin.

Tamar Hermann, director of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttmann Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, said in a statement that two blocs have formed within Israeli Jewish society on the issues contained in the survey.

“This polarization is a dangerous process, reflecting an inability to reach consensus on what is the common good,” she said.

Other findings include:

* The most trusted state institution is the army, at 89 per cent, followed by the president at 68 per cent. Slightly more than half of Israelis trusted the police.

* 81.5 per cent of respondents are proud to be Israelis. That breaks down with 88 per cent of Jews and 51 per cent of Arabs, down several points from the previous year.

* 79 per cent of Israelis feel they have little or no influence on government policy and 56 per cent do not agree that most Knesset members work hard and are doing a good job.

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