Photo Credit: Haim Zach/GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with an 800 hundred year-old, Yemenite torah scroll at the Knesset, the parliament of the Jewish State of Israel, March 21, 2016.

The new Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, enacted July 19 by a majority of 62 to 55 with 2 abstaining, is at the focal point of the July Peace Index survey, conducted by telephone on July 24-26, with 600 respondents who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population of Israel ages 18 and up. Although its accuracy is rated ±4.1% with a confidence level of 95%, the survey is valuable as it gives us the first snapshot of the new law’s status in the Israeli public.

The survey asked: “In your opinion, was there or was there not a need for the law to make this declaration at this time?”

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In the Jewish public, 52% think there was a need for the law, 40% believe the opposite. Among those defining themselves as right-wing, 69% saw the law as necessary at this point. 36%, of those defining themselves as centrist and 11% among left-wingers saw it that way. A segmentation by religiosity shows 72% of “religious traditional” see a need for the law, religious – 71.5%, Haredim – 66%, non-religious traditional – 63%, secular – 33%.

Not surprisingly, a full 84% of the Arab public thinks there was no need to legislate the Nationality Law.

The survey asked whether or not the new law should have addressed the issue of equality, which is to be found in the complementary Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which governs democracy in the Jewish State. A 60% majority of Jewish respondents think the law should also have included the component of equality – suggesting they probably do not understand the relationship between the two Basic Laws.

The new law also demotes the Arabic language from an official to a “special status” language of the state of Israel. In the Jewish public 51% regard this change as good while 40% hold the opposing view. On the right, 67% favor diminishing the status of Arabic, compared to 38% in the center and 13% on the left.

Regarding the law’s impact on the Druze community, 61% of the Jewish public believe the law will not affect (28%) or will slightly reduce (33%) this community’s commitment to the country.

The law states that Israel “shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people” and also “shall act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the Diaspora.” The survey asked whether this wording manifests – as the law’s opponents have claimed – Israel’s condescension toward Diaspora Jewry.

A 51% majority of the Jewish public sees this interpretation of the law as wrong while 33% take the opposite view. The survey also asked about the veracity of the claim that “in the new Nationality Law, Israel takes responsibility for Diaspora Jewry but tries to weaken the non-Orthodox denominations despite the fact that most Diaspora Jews are Reform or Conservative.” About half replied that the claim is inaccurate, 18% viewed it as accurate, and 24% had no opinion on the matter.

The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. This month’s survey was conducted by telephone on July 24-26, 2018, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 600 respondents, who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population of Israel aged 18 and over. The maximum measurement error for the entire sample is ±4.1% at a confidence level of 95%.

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