Conditional Partnership 2019: Relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel

Tamar Hermann, Israel Democracy Institute, September 22, 2019

With permission, read full article at IDI.

The Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, directed by Prof. Tamar Hermann, at the Israel Democracy Institute, conducted an in depth analysis of the complex relations between Israel’s Jewish and Arab Citizens. The current study was first conducted in 2017. Once again, its findings reveal that the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel manifest themselves on three levels: Attitudes towards the state and its institutions; relations on the group level of Jewish and Arab Israelis, and on the individual level — in day to day relationships.

As in the earlier study, the greatest gaps and tension between Arabs and Jews were found with regard to attitudes towards the State and its institutions. At the heart of this tension, lies the fundamental disagreement over the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, along with the assessment of the extent to which the State is democratic in its treatment of its Arab citizens. The majority of Arab Israelis feel that Israel does not treat them democratically, and contest the idea that Israel has the right to define itself as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. These positions became even more widespread after the Nation-State Law was passed. 

In contrast, low levels of tension were found in relations between groups of Jewish and Arab Israelis – and extremely low tensions, in relationships between individuals – neither which were affected by the Nation-State Law. On both these levels, we found encouraging trends: First, relationships in the work place were mostly perceived as “good” or “very good, “ and second – the majority of both Jewish and Arab Israelis rate Israel as a good place to live.

Prof. Tamar Hermann, Director of the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute, said: “The study clearly reveals that despite Arab Israelis’ serious criticism of their treatment by the State, especially in reference to the legislation of the Nation State Law, there is a strong desire among them to integrate into the State and Israeli society. 

For example, on a practical level, a substantial majority is in favor of joining the government and the appointment of an Arab minister. At the same time, we see a significant decline in Arab Israelis’ satisfaction with their leadership. And so, it is safe to assume that if this leadership declines to support the new government (led by Ganz) after receiving a respectful offer accompanied by significant compensation for joining—this will deal a significant blow to the ties between the Arab Israeli community and its leadership.

As for the Jewish public—its readiness to join forces with the Arabs in the political arena is more modest. At the same time, the study reveals its substantial support for investing resources in the Arab Israeli community in civic areas (such as education and infrastructure) and for a public space shared by Jews and Arabs.”

Main Findings

Level 1 – The State and State Institutions

Citizenship – 77% of Arab Israelis (compared with 67% in 2017) deny Israel’s right to define itself as the Nation-State of the Jewish people. Over half (54%) of Jewish Israelis, are in favor of denying the right to vote for those refusing to declare that Israel is the Nation-State of the Jewish people; 46% of Jewish Israelis believe that the exclusive right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the State of Israel should have been included in the Nation-State law, even though this would make it difficult for Arab Israeli citizens to feel that Israel is their state as well.

Jewish or Democratic? – 72% of Jewish Israelis think that Israel is democratic in its treatment of Arab Israeli citizens, while, 55.5% of Arab Israelis believe it is not. Both Arab Israelis (78%) and Jewish Israelis (44%) believe that over the years, Israeli governments have not treated Arab Israelis equally or fairly.

Trust in State Institutions – Arab Israelis have little trust in state institutions, with the exception being the Supreme Court.

Joining the Government – Nevertheless, 76% of Arab Israelis support Arab parties joining the government, slightly down from 2017, when it stood at 81%. A possible explanation for the decline in support of joining the government is the passage of the Nation-State law. Among Jewish Israelis, resistance to Arab parties joining the government has dropped from 66% in 2017 to 50% in 2019.

Support for Arab parties joining the government, and being appointed as Ministers 2003-2019 (Strongly support, moderately support, Arabs)

Arab Leadership – for the first time, the majority of Arab Israelis – 58% (up from 41% in 2017) believe that their political leadership does not do a good job in representing the Arab community, along with 54% of Jewish Israelis.

Equal Opportunity? 57% of Jewish Israelis and 63% of Arab Israelis agree that Arabs and Jews do not stand equal chances for success in Israel. Moreover, 75% of Arab Israelis think that even if an Arab Israeli is more qualified for a job or for acceptance to an educational framework, a Jewish Israeli competing for the same slot, will have a better chance of being accepted. This is corroborated by the responses to the question addressed to Jewish respondents only: Should more Arab Israelis be appointed to senior positions in the country? About two-thirds (64%) responded negatively. However, most Jewish Israelis (56%) support equal budgeting for Jewish and Arab communities (almost identical to 2017).

Military or Civilian Service for All – 72% of Jewish Israelis think that all young Arab citizens of Israel should be required to serve either in the military or in civilian service, compared with the majority (63%) of Arabs who oppose such compulsory service. However, support for service has risen to 35% among Arab Israelis, up from 25% in 2017.

Status of the Arabic Language – although the Nation-State law demoted the status of Arabic from an official language to a “language with a special status,” a small majority of Jewish Israelis (55%) and the vast majority of Arab Israelis (98%) think that the officials signs and documents –for example, signs on public buildings, road signs and street signs– should appear also in Arabic. In addition, 59% of Jewish Israelis and 89% of Arab Israelis think that the study of Arabic should be compulsory in Jewish schools in Israel.

Level 2 – The Societal Level

Living Separately? – Less than half (47%) of Jewish Israelis prefer that Arab and Jewish Israelis should live separately, as compared with only 17% among Arab Israelis.

Additionally 43% of Jewish Israelis believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to purchase land only in Arab neighborhoods and communities. Another 22% said that Arab Israelis should not be allowed to purchase land in Israel at all, representing a slight decline from 2017, when 25% of Jewish Israelis opposed any sale of land to Arab Israelis.

Crime in the Arab Sector – While 39% of Jewish Israelis cite the lack of cooperation with law authorities on the part of Arab leadership as the main explanation for high levels of crime in the Arab sector in Israel, 38% of Arab Israelis blame the state and the inadequate attempts by the police to prevent crime. More than half (58%) of Jewish Israelis and 83% of Arab Israelis, are dissatisfied with the way the police deals with crime.

Working Together – The majority of Israelis (70% of Jews and 75% of Arabs work or have worked in the past, in places in which Jews and Arabs work together. Almost all (92.5 %) of both Jewish Israelis (up from 89.5% in 2017) and 98% of Arab Israelis (up from 94% in 2017) defined working relationships as either “good” or “very good”. Additionally, the study found that working together was positively associated with resistance to separate living areas.

Entering Jewish or Arab Localities – 58% of Jewish Israelis reported that they try to avoid entering Arab localities – while only 8% of Arab Israelis reported that they avoid entering Jewish localities.

Level 3 – The Individual Level

Pride in being Israeli: 92% of Jewish Israelis and 65% of Arab Israelis are proud to be Israelis. It is worth noting that in the current survey the percentage of Arabs proud to be Israelis was the highest ever since 2003.

Identity – The majority of Jewish Israelis (59%) believe that it is impossible for an Arab Israeli citizen, who self-identifies as a Palestinian, to be loyal to the State of Israel. In contrast, 70% of Arab Israelis thought that this was possible.

Close Relationships – Among Jewish Israelis – 81% are willing to accept an Arab colleague at their workplace; 64% as a personal friend; 58% as a neighbor; but only 12% are willing to accept an Arab as a spouse. With regard to Arab Israelis’ acceptance of Jews; – 96% are willing to accept a Jewish colleague at work; 85% as a personal friend; and 22% are willing to accept a Jew as a spouse.

The Conditional Partnership 2019 is a project of the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. The survey included 1,036 men and women who were interviewed – 500 Jews and 536 Arabs, each constituting a representative national sample of the relevant adult population of Israel aged 18 and older. The interviews were conducted between inQ1 2019 before the April 2019 elections. The size of the sample enabled us to segment each of the populations into subcategories with high statistical reliability.

The sample is based on the size of each sub-group in Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.

The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was 4.5%± at a confidence level of 95%.

The fieldwork was conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute under the direction of Rafi Smith. For the full data file see: