Despite a significant hardening of stances toward Israeli Jews and policies of the state, most Israeli Arabs say they still prefer living in Israel than in any other country, the 2012 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, has found. The index shows an undercurrent of alienation and radicalization of Israel's Arabs toward the Jewish state, with a concurrent but opposite undercurrent of Jewish Israeli softening of attitudes toward the Israeli Arab minority.
"For the 10 years spanning 2003 and 2012, the index is marked by the trend of a toughening of Arab attitudes toward the Jewish character of the state and its Jewish majority, but by stability or even a certain moderation in Jewish attitudes toward Israel's Arab citizens," the IDI report stated.
The survey shows that while Jews are open to a degree of change, the Arabs perceive themselves as absolute victims and expect the Jewish population to make all the concessions, while refusing to take any steps to win the trust and good will of the state and of the Jews or to motivate Jews to effect change.
In an indication of how far Israel's Arab and Jewish populations have drifted apart, the index shows that 58.6 percent of Arab respondents agreed with the statement that "it is justified that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip start a third intifada if the political stalemate continues." In addition, 58.2% of respondents agreed with the claim that "it is justified that Arab citizens in Israel begin an intifada of their own if their situation does not improve significantly."
Some 55.9% of Arabs were reconciled to Israel as a state with a Jewish majority, 60.6% to a state whose language is Hebrew, 53.2% to a state with an Israeli-Hebrew culture, and 60.2% to a state where Saturday is the day of rest. Moreover, 54.7% of the Arabs would prefer to live in Israel than in any other country.
Despite this, Israeli Arabs feel alienated and threatened in Israel, with 55.5% saying that as Israeli citizens they feel estranged and rejected (compared with 54.3% in 2003), 62.4% feel that it is impossible to trust most Jews (55.6% in 2003), 77.8% fear grave violation of their basic rights (71.1% in 2003), and 68.0% are afraid of population transfer (55.4% in 2003).
Reconciliation with Israel's Jewish character does not mean preference, as the Arabs prefer a binational state to a Jewish and democratic state, nor does it imply justification of the status quo, since 69.6% of the Arab respondents think it is not justified that Israel maintains a Jewish majority. Even so, 70.5% of the Arabs say that the government today treats Arabs as second-class citizens or as hostile citizens who do not deserve equality.
However, when asked whether they would be amenable to performing some form of mandatory service for the state, only 34.4% agreed to do so, a drop from 43% in 2009. In addition, 82.2% accused Jews of the "Nakba" (the "Catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948), a rise from 65.3% in 2003. Overall, the percentage of Israeli Arabs holding accommodating and compromising stances has been steadily decreasing and has shrunk to a minority.
According to the poll, 37.1% of the Arab respondents want their children to attend Jewish high schools, 42.4% are in favor of living in Jewish neighborhoods, and 72.8% want Arab political parties joining coalition governments. In Arab eyes, integration would increase their access to resources and to a less traditional way of life without them having to assimilate into the Jewish population.
Some 48.2% of the Arabs responded that in a public referendum they would vote for a constitution that "defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and guarantees full citizenship rights to Arabs." However, in 2006 Arab support for such a referendum reached 70.9%, and has dropped sharply since then.
And 76.0% maintain that the Israeli Arab political leadership should deal more with settling the daily problems and less with Israel's dispute with the Palestinians.
As for the Jewish perspective, a significant percentage of Jewish respondents were also ready to accept Arab citizens as neighbors (45.7% in 2012, compared with 34.5% in 2003), as students in Jewish schools (54.8% in 2012, up from 51.5% in 2003), and Arab political parties in government coalitions (52.8% in 2012, up from 47.4% in 2003). Most Jews prefer that Israel be integrated into the West rather than the Middle East (65.0% in 2012; 66.4% in 2003).
A majority of Jews accept the right of Arabs to live in Israel as a minority, despite their fears of the perceived dangers involved. Some 75.0% of Jewish respondents 2 agreed that the Arabs have the right to live in the state as a minority with full citizenship rights (compared with 72.6% in 2003). A majority recognized the collective rights of the Arabs to separate religion, culture and education. Likewise, a majority of 58.3% agreed that the state should accord Arabs the powers of self-administration of their religious, cultural and educational institutions (61.7% in 2003).
Jews are fearful of Arab citizens and do not trust them, though attitudes have softened over the course of the decade since the index first began gathering its data. In 2012, 57.6% of the Jews reported avoiding Arab areas in Israel out of fear or rejection (compared with 73.1% in 2003), 51.5% reported fear of the high Arab birthrate (70.1% in 2003), 64.9% fear Arabs endangering the state because of their struggle to change its Jewish character (71.8% in 2003), 27.9% favor denying Arabs the right to vote in Knesset elections (35.9% in 2003), 69.4% believe that an Arab citizen who defines himself or herself as "a Palestinian Arab in Israel" cannot be loyal to the state and its laws (75.6% in 2003), 64.5% would choose the Jewish character of the state in case of a contradiction with its democratic character (69.7% in 2003), and 39.4% reported support for transfer of some Arab localities in the Galilee Triangle to a future Palestinian state (compared to 45.3% in 2003). Only 26.9% of Israeli Jews agreed that security checks at border crossings should be the same for Arabs and Jews (33.2% in 2009).
The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, based on an Arab public opinion survey and a Jewish public opinion survey carried out every year in the fall, measures attitudes of Arab and Jewish citizens toward each other and toward the state and serves as a tool to monitor trends of change in these attitudes over the years.
The Arab survey draws on 700 face-to-face interviews with a national representative sample of Arab citizens aged 18 and over (including Druze and Bedouin, but excluding Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Druze in the Golan Heights, who by and large are not Israeli citizens).
The Jewish survey draws on 700 telephone interviews with a national representative sample of Jews aged 18 and over (including immigrants, the ultra-Orthodox, settlers, and moshav and kibbutz members). The sampling error in each survey is plus or minus 3.7%. The Arabs are interviewed by Arab interviewers in Arabic and Jews are interviewed by Jews in Hebrew and Russian, and all are promised full confidentiality. The interviews are conducted on the basis of fixed-choice questionnaires that comprised 190 items for Arabs and 150 items for Jews in 2012.