The Pluralism Index

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

The text of Israel’s Declaration of Independence has been deployed by the anti-judicial-reform camp, and therefore occupies (not necessarily for its own good5) a central position in the present political dispute. Opposition head Yair Lapid defined the struggle against the reform as a campaign in which “we’re fighting for the values of the Declaration of Independence.”6 Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said at one of the demonstrations against the government “We are here to defend the Declaration of Independence,” and called those opposed to the reform “the Declaration of Independence camp.

”The Declaration text, sometimes enlarged to billboard proportions, was hung on city and town halls and at other sites (Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Kfar Saba), and was carried and read aloud by demonstrators. The demonstrators’ and objectors’ explicit contention was that advocates of the judicial reform had forsaken the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Can a real tendency be discerned on the part of the reform supporters to disavow the Declaration and its values? This year’s questionnaire included five statements from the Declaration, without citation of their origin. We noted that the statements had been “written about the vision for the State of Israel,” and one may assume that some of the respondents recognized their source while others answered without having recognized it.7

The level of agreement with all of the statements taken from the Declaration was very high among Jewish respondents. Several differences were, of course, found between sectors on some of the statements, to be discussed below. Among Arab respondents, agreement was much lower. We hypothesize that a large proportion of Arab respondents did not regard the statements as an aspirational “vision” but rather as a reality test. That is, they did not necessarily answer the question of what is desirable, but rather of what, in their view, actually exists. Agreement levels among the Arab respondents were around 50% for the statements queried (four statements, not including the direct “appeal to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel”).

Where can gaps be found between different groups regarding the vision set forth in the Declaration of Independence? The two first statements in the list – the one pertaining to “the natural right of the Jewish people,” and the one affirming that Israel will be founded on “freedom, justice and peace” – are accepted by all Jewish subgroups to a very high degree. Divergent views can be seen regarding the other three statements. Support is high for all of them, but differences emerge both in share of support and, to a greater extent, in agreement level (“strongly agree” versus “somewhat agree”) as one moves along the left-right political spectrum, and from secular to Haredi along the corresponding religiosity scale. For all three of these statements, support grows significantly stronger as one moves “leftward” along the scale, and weakens as one moves “rightward.”

A variety of hypotheses may be advanced as to why those on the right, or Religious and Haredi Israelis, choose “somewhat agree” rather than “strongly agree” in response to some of the Declaration statements. The Declaration of Independence, as noted, is currently at the heart of a public dispute that could potentially affect support for what is stated in its text. At the same time – and this is, of course, also related to the current Israeli public discord – it may be that for the more conservative groups the term “somewhat” expresses conditional support – support for the statement as they understand it, accompanied by fear of, or reservations about, the way in which the statement may be interpreted by other groups, or by the Supreme Court.

Again, it should be emphasized that when all those who “agree” (strongly or somewhat) in each group are taken together, the gaps between the groups diminish greatly. For example, 62% among those on the right agree “strongly” with the statement that Israel should “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience […],” versus 97% of those on the left. However, if those on the right who agree “strongly” or “somewhat” with the statement are taken together, the gap narrows to 83% of the right versus 97% of the left. The same narrowing can be seen for all of the statements where disparities were found. In all groups and for all of the statements, the total agreement rate does not drop below 70% in any instance.