Pluralism Index 2023: Israelis Want a Democratic and Jewish State

Findings from a comprehensive survey on pluralism in Israeli society.

By: Shmuel Rosner, Professor Camil Fuchs, Noah Slepkov.

Pluralism Index 2023: Israelis Want a Democratic and Jewish State

This is the ninth year the Jewish People Policy Institute has published its annual Pluralism Index, and the eighth year that the Index is based, among other things, on a comprehensive survey of attitudes. As in past years, the survey included Jewish and non-Jewish respondents.

In the Jewish sector the survey was conducted by and included a relatively large number of respondents (1700). Of these, nearly 600 completed both last year’s questionnaire and this year’s questionnaire, enabling accurate and individualized comparison of changes in opinion among the same respondents from different groups.

The Index has an established list of topics that recur periodically so that their development can be monitored; some of the trends identified with regard to these topics are discussed below. This year (as in previous years) the survey was supervised by Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. Analysis was provided jointly by Prof. Fuchs and JPPI fellows Noah Slepkov and Shmuel Rosner.

Background conditions for the Index

The survey underlying the Pluralism Index is conducted under prevailing political and social conditions, and against the background of new developments that must be factored into the analysis. In recent months the main development impacting the data has been a roiling confrontation over the government’s desire to institute a comprehensive reform of the system of checks and balances regulating relations between Israel’s legislative and judicial branches of government. This confrontation emerged in the wake of Israel’s fifth round of elections in four years, with the most recent elections (November 2022) achieving, for the first time in this period, a clear majority for one of the blocs – a bloc consisting of the Likud, the Religious Zionism Party, and the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Those opposed to the new government were deeply distressed by this election victory.

Moreover, the rapidity with which the coalition moved to implement reforms, some of which are far-reaching in scope and relate to the character of Israel’s political system, led to a major crisis, described in mid-February by the President of Israel as “the brink of constitutional and social collapse” and as the moment before an “explosion.”

The Pluralism Index questionnaire has several components that cannot be addressed without attention to the developments noted here. This is true of the questions regarding the strength or weakness of institutions such as the Supreme Court and official positions such as the Attorney General, it is true of questions pertaining to levels of agreement with clauses in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and it is true of questions about opposition and coalition voters’ attitudes toward each other. It should be added that the judicial reform controversy’s clear dominance of the public discourse need not obscure other ways in which current developments affected respondents’ answers this year.

We have mentioned the recent election cycle in which the right-wing bloc won a majority, the left-wing bloc shrank considerably as a veteran member of that bloc (the Meretz Party) dropped below the electoral threshold, and the Arab parties returned to their all-but-permanent place in the opposition (after Ra’am’s short tenure in the previous coalition). The beginning of the rightist-Haredi government’s tenure was marked by tension on several issues pertaining to religion-state relations (a proposed law prohibiting the entry of chametz into hospitals during Passover), Israel-Diaspora relations (a demand to change the Law of Return), and more.