Most Israelis Believe Regime Revolution Likely To Harm Human Rights Protection and Situation of Minority Groups
The latest Human Rights Index survey, a collaborative project of Zulat for Equality and Human Rights and Reichman University’s Institute for Freedom and Responsibility, was conducted in February 2023. In view of the intense public preoccupation with the regime revolution promoted by the government, the survey focused on the public’s stances with regard to the planned legislation to overhaul the judiciary and its effect on human rights and the situation of various social groups.
The Main Findings
- The public fears human rights will be harmed: Over 50% believe the plan is likely to harm basic human rights. Only 20% believe it will improve their protection.
- Only 30% on the Right foresee harm to human rights, as opposed to an overwhelming majority on the Left and Center: A huge majority of Left and Center supporters (more than 80% and 70%, respectively), as opposed to some 30% of right-wing supporters, believe basic rights are likely to be harmed. A similar proportion on the Right (about 30%) believe the rights situation will improve.
- The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) public expects an improvement in rights more than any other sector: Contrary to the general public’s position and at a significant variance with secular and traditional Israelis, the majority of Haredim believe the protection of most human rights will improve: over 60% think so with regard to three rights and 50% think so with regard to three other rights, as opposed to a negligible percentage of Haredim who believe that human rights are likely to be harmed.
- Arabs more fearful than Jews: More Arab than Jewish respondents believe human rights are likely to be harmed. The difference is consistent across all the rights, and ranges from 10% to 20%.
- Women more fearful than men: A higher proportion of women than men believe most human rights are likely to be harmed (a difference of at least 11% in relation to four of six rights).
- Good only for religious sector and harmful for the rest: The majority of Israelis believe the regime change will benefit only the religious community, especially Haredim: 57% think the situation of Haredim will improve and 43% say the same about national religious people.
- Most Israelis believe groups unassociated with the religious Jewish public will be the most affected: The majority of Israelis believe the groups likely to be most severely affected are LGBTQs (58% of the respondents thought so), Arabs (56%), and foreign residents (57%).
- The most vulnerable groups, in the eyes of the Right as well: A third of self-proclaimed right-wingers thought the situation of Israeli Arabs was likely to deteriorate, and 40% thought the same about LGBTQs and foreign residents.
Full Analysis of the Findings
The survey was conducted by iPanel Israel between 9 and 14 February 2023. The data was collected online from 1,512 respondents (1,204 Jews and 308 Arabs) aged 18 and above, who constitute a national representative sample of this age group. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample is 2.5% at a 95% confidence level. Segmented by gender, age group, area of residence, and degree of religiosity, Jewish respondents constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish population, while Arab respondents constitute an approximate representative sample of the adult Arab population due to insufficient sampling of males, residents of Israel’s southern region, and respondents aged 40 and above. The findings below exclude “don’t know” responses and comprise only the answers of those who voiced an opinion.
The findings show the majority of respondents thought the protection of human rights will be harmed as a result of the regime change, as opposed to those who said it would improve (the difference is significant, and ranges from 21% to 39% in regard to five of six rights). Most of the public also thought the expected changes in the legal system would negatively affect the situation of various social groups, primarily the Arab minority, the LGBTQ community, and foreign residents without Israeli citizenship.
The first question surveyed the public’s stances on various human rights: The right to health, the right to earn a dignified living, the right to equality before the law, the right to equality of all citizens without discrimination (due to race, skin color, sex, language, religion, or political view), the right to religion and freedom from religion, and the right to freedom of expression and protest. Respondents were asked whether as a result of the Justice Minister’s planned reform of the judicial system the protection of each of these rights would improve, be harmed, or remain unchanged. Across all the rights, the answers consistently show that only a minority believe the plan to weaken the judiciary will improve their protection: only 20% thought so with regard to all the rights and only 14% believed as much with regard to the right to freedom of expression and protest. On the other hand, in relation to most rights, the majority thought their protection would be harmed: 53% thought so about the right to freedom of expression and protest, 53% about the right to equality before the law, 52% about the right to indiscriminate equality of all citizens, 47% about the right to religion and freedom from religion, and 40% about the right to earn a dignified living. Only with regard to the right to health did the majority think that its protection would remain unchanged (49%), although a third thought it would be harmed as well.
As expected, a segmentation of the response according to political identification shows gaps between Left, Center, and Right supporters. In relation to all six rights, an overwhelming majority on the Left and Center thought they would be harmed: 85% on the Left and 73% on the Center said so in regard to the right to equality before the law, 82% on the Left and 76% on the Center in regard to the right to freedom of expression and protest, and 79% on the Left and 70% on the Center in regard to the right to indiscriminate equality of all citizens. Only a negligible percentage thought the planned judicial reform would improve the protection of human rights.
Compared to this clear-cut stance, respondents who identified as right-wing were more divided in their opinion regarding the impact of the regime revolution on human rights: Some 30% thought most rights were likely to be harmed, while a similar proportion said their protection would improve. In most cases, right-wing respondents said the protection of human rights would remain unchanged. This means that despite the gaps that were to be expected, a significant part of the Right (over 25%) agrees with the Left and Center that the regime change will harm human rights and that there is no majority on the Right of those who think their protection will improve (only concerning the right to equality before the law, 37% said it would improve, 35% said it would remain unchanged, and 28% said it would be harmed).
Since the judicial reform is a controversial public-political topic, one would have expected the biggest difference to be between respondents holding opposed political views. However, an analysis of the findings revealed that the most significant gap between respondents had to do with religiosity. Respondents who self-identified as religious Jews, especially Haredim, thought human rights were likely to improve as a result of the legislation to weaken the judiciary at much higher rates than any other population group.
According to the survey, the percentage of Haredim who thought the protection of human rights would improve was more than 60% regarding three rights and about 50% regarding three others, with only a negligible minority saying that rights were likely to be harmed. Their response differed significantly from that of secular respondents, the vast majority of whom said that rights would be harmed (over 70% across most of the rights surveyed). To some extent, this difference in the positions of religious and secular Israelis was to be expected, but the fact that this is the most significant gap in the context of the plan to overhaul the justice system illuminates an important aspect regarding the way the public perceives it and its effects on various groups in Israeli society.
The segmentation of the response to this question also shows that fear that the regime revolution would harm human rights is more prevalent among the Arab public and women. Consistently across all six rights, more Arabs than Jews (the difference ranged from 10% to 20%) said these were likely to be harmed: 65% of Arabs and 51% of Jewish respondents thought so in relation to the right to equality before the law, 61% of Arabs and 50% of Jews said as much with regard to the right to indiscriminate equality, and 69% of Arab respondents and 50% of Jews thought concerning the right to freedom of expression and protest.
With regard to three rights, there was a difference of over 10% between women and men who thought these would be harmed: 59% of women compared to 48% of men thought so about the right to equality before the law, 58% of women as opposed to 47% of men said so about the right to indiscriminate equality, and 60% of women compared to 47% of men thought so about the right to freedom of expression and protest.
This higher fear among Arabs and women was also evident in the response to the second question of the survey, which sought to examine whether the judicial overhaul promoted by the government would change the situation of various groups: Arabs, women, secularists, national religious, Haredim, LGBTQ, and stateless foreign residents. Respondents were asked to answer whether each group’s situation was expected to improve, worsen, or remain unchanged. More Arabs (77%) than Jews (51%) thought the situation of Arabs would worsen, and more women (53%) than men (39%) thought the situation of women would worsen.
An interesting finding emerging from the answers to this question is that the majority believe the regime change will only benefit religious Israelis, especially Haredim. An overwhelming majority of 57% thought only the situation of Haredim would improve, while a significant 43% said the same about national religious Israelis. Only 9% – 16% thought so in regard to all the other groups, with most respondents asserting that the situation of the latter would worsen.
The majority of the public overwhelmingly agree that the groups that will be particularly harmed by the judicial overhaul are LGBTQs (58%), Arabs (56%), and foreign residents (57%). The realization that the situation of minority groups is expected to deteriorate does not only lies exclusively on one side of the political map. A segmentation of the answers shows that a vast majority of left-wing voters think the reform will harm Arabs (89%), the LGBTQ community (81%), and foreign residents (74%), but a fairly high rate of right-wing voters think likewise: 33% says Arabs will be harmed, 38% think so about the LGBTQ community, and 40% say so about foreign residents.
A major part of the public believe the situation of women and secular Israelis is likely to worsen as a result of the government plan (46% in both cases). On the other hand, only a minority think so about the Haredim (10%) and the national religious group (13%).
The majority of Israelis believe LGBTQs (58%), Arabs (56%), and foreign residents (57%) are the groups likely to be most severely affected by the legal revolution, a finding compatible with their position regarding the groups whose situation is likely to improve. In other words, the public believes the regime change is likely to benefit only the Haredim and national religious group and that the groups unassociated with the religious Jewish public, such as the LGBTQ community, Arabs, and foreign residents are likely to be the most affected.