A new poll has found that a majority of Israelis support enshrining equality for non-Jewish citizens, who are considered by some to be treated as separate and unequal in Israel under laws passed by the Knesset in recent years.
The poll, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, surveyed 600 Jewish and 200 Arab citizens of Israel in November 2023. The poll has a margin of error of 3.7 percent for the Jewish sample and 6.5 percent for the Arab sample.
According to the poll, 63 percent of Jewish respondents and 89 percent of Arab respondents agreed that Israel should have a basic law that guarantees equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race, or sex. A basic law is a piece of legislation that has constitutional weight in Israel, which does not have a codified constitution.
The poll also found that 58 percent of Jewish respondents and 86 percent of Arab respondents agreed that Israel should recognize the Arab minority as a national minority with collective rights, such as cultural and linguistic autonomy.
The poll results reflect a growing dissatisfaction among Israelis with the current legal status of non-Jewish citizens, who make up about 21 percent of Israel’s population. The vast majority of them are Palestinian Arabs, who have the same legal rights as Jewish citizens, but face discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages in various aspects of life, such as education, employment, housing, and health care.
The controversial Nation-State Law
The poll comes amid a heated debate over the controversial Nation-State Law, which was passed by the Knesset in 2018. The law declares that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. The law also downgrades the status of Arabic from an official language to a language with a special status, and encourages the development of Jewish settlements.
The law has been widely criticized by Arab citizens, human rights groups, and some Jewish Israelis, who argue that it undermines the democratic and pluralistic character of Israel, and that it violates the principle of equality enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The law has also been challenged in the Supreme Court, which has yet to issue a ruling on its constitutionality.
The poll suggests that there is a potential for a political change in Israel, as more Israelis are willing to support a more inclusive and egalitarian vision of the state. However, the poll also reveals that there are still significant gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens on other issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of religion in the state, and the trust in state institutions.