Almost half of Israel’s Arab minority doesn’t recognize the country’s right to exist, according to the University of Haifa’s Index of Arab-Jewish Relations for 2017, released on Wednesday.
The study found a sharp deterioration in the attitudes of Arab and Jews in Israel toward coexistence, but despite the negative findings most Jews and Arabs remained willing to maintain a joint society.
According to the poll, the number of Arabs who recognize Israel’s right to exist fell to 58.7% compared to 65.8% in 2015, while the acceptance rate among Arabs of Israel as a state with a Jewish majority plummeted from 60.3% in 2015 to 44.6%. The number of Arabs recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state dropped from 53.6% to 49.1%.
At the same time, the poll showed a worsening of Jewish attitudes toward the Arab minority. In 2015, 79.7% of Jews recognized the right of Arabs to live in the state as a minority with full civil rights, but in this year’s poll, the number dropped to 73.8%. The percentage of Jews recognizing the status of the Arabs as a minority with full civil rights in a Jewish and democratic state dropped from 74.9% to 68.1%, and the percentage of Jews who accept Arabs as full members of Israeli society declined from 69.5% to 61.1%.
The percentage of Jews that would allow Arab children to attend schools where their children study declined from 57.5% to 51.6 %. A majority of Jews (63.7%) declined to enter Arab communities in Israel, up from 59.7% in the previous poll, while the number of Jews rejecting Arabs as neighbors increased from 41.0% to 48.0%
The majority of Arabs polled (60%) thought Israel is a good place to live and prefer to live in Israel instead of any other country, and 77.4% of Arabs (an increase from 72.2% in 2015) are not willing to move to a Palestinian state if and when such a state is established.
“When they see the unrest and the instability in the Arab world since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, they feel that it is good that they live in Israel,” said Prof. Sami Samuha who has run the survey for the last 40 years.
According to Prof. Samuha, despite the deterioration in the willingness to integrate, the figures show a great openness of both Arabs and Jews to maintain relations
“Opinion polls since 1976 point to the continued existence of a strong infrastructure for Arab-Jewish co-existence in Israel,” Samuha said. There is still a large majority of Jews who accept the Arabs as a minority with full rights and as an integral part of Israeli society, he explained. Thus, for example, 60.7% of the Jews in 2017 agree with the government decision to implement a large five-year plan of NIS 10-15 billion for the development of the Arab sector.
The poll, conducted between May and August 2017, included 1400 respondents, half Jews and half Arabs who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population of Israel.