Public Opinion Surveys

Support for Supreme Court Tal Decision; Little Faith in Real Change

According to the February Peace Index, 68% of the general population and 71% of Israeli Jews agree with the Israeli Supreme Court that the Tal Law “creates inequality between Israeli population groups that serve in the army and other groups, such as the ultra-Orthodox and minorities, which do not serve in the army.”

The Tal Law, originally passed in 2002, was designed as an answer to a 1997 High Court ruling that the practice of giving ad hoc administrative exemptions to Haredim was illegal. The law was supposed to ease the Haredi community into national service, but failed to do so.  In February, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the law had failed to address inequalities in the burden of national defense and service.

The number of people supporting the supreme courts decision is slightly higher than the Hiddush’s recent study which found 69% of Israelis concurring with the Supreme Court decision. This is the second study confirm a public consensus behind the rejection of the Tal law.

However, Israelis have very low expectations that the Supreme Court decision will result in substantive changes. When asked to rate the change that ” that the government will indeed act in the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling and bring about mandatory conscription or mandatory national-civilian service for all groups in Israeli society”, only 22% of Israelis expected a moderately high or very high chance of change. Israeli Jews were even more skeptical: only 19% expected a high or very high chance of change.

The Peace Index poll is a monthly telephone survey sponsored by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The January survey took place on February 28-29 and included 600 respondents. Survey results have a 4.5% margin of error. The questions on the survey vary from month to month.

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Service for All: 82% of Israeli Jews support a law of mandatory conscription for yeshiva students

by Hiddush staff, crossposted with permission from Hiddush blog.

Nahal Haredi Soldiers

68%, more than two-thirds of the Jewish population of Israel, including 81% of Likkud voters, support withholding public funding for yeshiva students if they refuse to enlist in military or civil service. 82% of the Jewish Israeli population hold that in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling that invalidates the Tal Law, a new law must be passed to enforce mandatory conscription of all or most yeshiva students into service. 69% support the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the Tal Law.

These are the findings of a new poll conducted by the Smith Institute on behalf of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel, Inc. The poll was conducted in the last week of February, based on a representative sample of 500 adult Jews in Israel.

Hiddush President, Rabbi Uri Regev says “The poll proves unequivocally that the Israeli public is sick and tired with politically motivated mass exemption [currently app. 60,000, about 14% of the conscription] and is demanding mandatory service for yeshiva students. Integration of the ultra-Orthodox population into service will only happen if public funding for yeshiva students is conditional upon that service. The question is whether the government leaders will stay true to the voters who elected them and to the core values of Israel”

69% of the Jewish Israeli population, 83% of secular Israelis and 84% of recent immigrants (typically from the Former Soviet Union) support the Supreme Court decision invalidating the Tal Law. 29% are opposed to the decision. 86% of the ultra-Orthodox population opposed it. Of those who supported the Court decision: 87% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, 73% of Likud voters, and 30% of voters for ultra-Orthodox parties. This somewhat surprising result can be explained by the fact that among Shas voters, there is a significant number of traditional and religious Jews who oppose army exemption for yeshiva students.

52% of the Israeli Jewish public support the passing of a new law that requires service, either military or civil, of all yeshiva students, and another 30% support recruiting all except for a limited number of outstanding yeshiva students. Altogether, 82% are in favor of mandatory recruitment for all or most yeshiva students into service. Of secular Israelis, 96% are in favor of such a law. Among religious respondents who are not ultra-Orthodox, 51% are against such a law and 49% are in favor. 91% of Likud voters are in favor of such legislation, 95% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters and 100% of Kadima voters.

85% of secular respondents, 87% of recent immigrants and 68% of the Jewish Israeli population as a whole are in favor of denying subsidies for those yeshiva students who do not serve. Of all respondents, Likud voters showed the highest support for such withholding of subsidies, 81% supporting, more than the 79% of both Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima voters. 52% of voters for right wing religious parties supported withholding subsidies.

*The Tal Law, named after Justice Tal who chaired the committee that recommended it, was passed in 1999 and was meant to provide a legislated framework to the long standing administrative practice of exempting yeshiva students from military service. It was intended to encourage greater participation in both military and civil service, as well as the workforce. In six months, the law will expire and it is widely held that it failed its purpose and provided for only negligible growth in each of these areas.

HIddush is an organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom and diversity and realizing the promise of Israel’s Founders as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

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Do Israelis Agree with Their Own Declaration of Independence?

Israel's Declaration of Independence

Advocates of a Jewishly diverse and inclusive Israel sometimes point to the Declaration of Independence as proof of Israel’s fundamental support for civil liberties. The Israeli Declaration of Independence says that the State of Israel will:

… it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions …

In principle it would seem so. According to Hiddush’s 2011 Religon and State Index, 83% of Israeli Jews believe in freedom of religion and conscience.

However, the Dec, 2011 Peace Index poll found that only 18% of Israelis (21% Jews, 8% Arabs) believed that Israeli was fully implementing the freedoms in the Declaration of Independence. Even more disturbing was the survey’s finding that only 62% of Israelis (63.5% Jews) even thought it should.

What does this mean? Continue reading

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January Peace Index: Economic and Security Concerns Dominate

According to the January Peace Index survey, 65% of Israelis ranked the relationship of religion and state as important or very important in their choice of a political party in the next elections. While this clearly makes religion and state a mainstream issue, it still ranked below both security and economic issues. This was true whether Israelis were asked about the pressing issues of the day or their plans in the next election.

Economic and security issues dominated when Israelis were asked to name the important issues of the day. 86% of Israelis ranked economic issues as important or very important. 81% believed security to be important or very important.

When asked which issue was the most important, economics and security were still the clear winner. Economic and security related issues tied for first place (~44%) when respondents were asked to name the most important issue facing the government. Concerns about vested interests, such as the Haredim or the wealthy, ranked much father behind. Only 8% expressed concern about vested interests.

The survey also looked at what would govern Israelis’ choice of a party in the next election. Once again, these issues dominated the Israeli mind. 79% thought socioeconomic issues were important or very important. 73% felt security and the party’s leader were important or very important.

The importance of women’s issues is unknown. Despite the great amount of press coverage and social debate around women in the public space, the Peace Index did not include the status of women among its survey questions on the important issues of the day. When asking about choice of parties, the survey asked only about the importance of including women on the party ticket.

The number of women on the ticket ranked very low in importance, but it isn’t possible to infer much from this. Access to political power is only one of many issues related to women in the public space. The past few months have made clear that the status of women includes many other issues: freedom of movement on sidewalks and buses; the ability to walk down a street without harassment or physical threat; and the opportunity to participate in public ceremonies as a singer, speaker, or award recipient are just a few of the non-political issues affecting the status of women.

The importance of the relationship of religion and state as a current objective is also difficult to assess. The survey appeared to conflate that issue with Haredi rights. In the questions about current government objectives, survey participants were asked about the balance of rights between Haredim and others. However, when asked about choice of political party, they were asked about the importance of the relationship between religion and state. The privileges of the Haredim are only one of many issues affected by the relationship of religion and state in Israel. Other issues would include the role of the rabbinut, recognition of clergy and beit dins in the Diaspora (both Orthodox and non-Orthodox), and burial and marriage rights within Israel.

The Peace Index poll is a monthly telephone survey sponsored by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The January survey took place on January 30-31 and included 602 respondents. Survey results have a 4.5% margin of error.   The questions on the survey vary from month to month.

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