Human Rights Index – Survey No. 8, July 2023 Part 1

>> اقرؤوا مسح تموز/ يوليو   2023 | For Arabic click here

Israelis believe government corruption harms democracy and equality between citizens

What are the consequences of government corruption on society? According to Israelis, government corruption exists in our country, and it harms both democracy and equality between citizens.

The latest Human Rights Index survey by Zulat for Equality and Human Rights and Reichman University’s Institute for Freedom and Responsibility, which was conducted in July 2023, focused on the impact of government corruption on democracy and equality and whether the steps taken by the current government affect its level.

One of the questions in the survey examined whether government corruption (to the extent that it exists) harms democracy in Israel. The response points to universal consensus: almost 90% of the respondents think it does. The findings are unambiguous, as three-quarters of Israelis say that government corruption “greatly harms” democracy, five times as many as those who say it “somewhat harms” it.

One manifestation of corruption is the attainment of government power with money, which benefits the haves at the expense of the have-nots in society. Another characteristic is the promotion of cronies in the public service over worthy candidates with no connections in high places. The danger posed by corruption, as reflected in the response about the harm to democracy, is that it may precipitate a shift from a democratic regime based on the common good to a sector-cratic regime based on the personal interests of politicians and power groups connected to the government. Therefore, the survey also examined whether the public sees government corruption as a phenomenon that harms equality between the citizens.

Here, too, the public’s position is clear-cut: a majority of 62% say that government corruption “greatly harms” equality between the citizens, and another 16% say it “slightly harms” it. In other words, 78% of the public believe that corruption harms equality between the country’s citizens, or slightly less than the number of those who think that corruption harms democracy.

Political Identity Affects Perception of Degree of Harm But General Picture Consistent

Controversial issues in Israel, such as questions of religion and state, the political issue, and LGBTQ rights are characterized by deeply polarized opinions between different groups and sectors of the population. In contrast, when it comes to corruption, the differences are more moderate, as attested by the overwhelming majority who believe that it harms democracy and equality.

At the same time, differences emerge in the response of those who voted for the government and those who voted for the opposition, who tend to see a greater damage to democracy and equality as a result of corruption. For example, almost all respondents among voters of Zionist opposition parties believe that corruption harms democracy, with at least 90% choosing the most categorical answer (“greatly”). Voters of Arab parties replied similarly, with 92-94% saying that corruption harms democracy to some extent.

The number of respondents who believe that corruption harms democracy is lower among voters of coalition parties, but still constitute an overwhelming majority: over 80% think so, with a more modest majority of two-thirds among United Torah Judaism voters. Similar findings also emerged in response to the question of whether government corruption harms equality between Israeli citizens.

Voters of opposition parties, more so than coalition voters, presumably attribute more damage to corruption because they are outside the centers of government power. Moreover, given the significant majority on both ends of the political map who believe that corruption harms democracy and equality, the sides are unlikely to blame the phenomenon on the same factors. While opposition voters probably blame the current government and its actions, at least some coalition voters likely point the finger at other factors, such as the judicial system, the “clerks” in the public service, or the Left’s old “elites.”

A more significant gap exists in the positions of Jews of various levels of religiosity: only 50% of the ultra-Orthodox believe that democracy is harmed “greatly,” compared to 87% of secular Israelis. Traditionalists are closer to the secular public (71%), whereas the national religious public is closer to the ultra-Orthodox in this respect (57%). A fairly similar trend emerges in response to the harm to equality as a result of corruption: 76% of the seculars, as opposed to 39% of the ultra-Orthodox, believe equality is greatly harmed. In this case, too, traditionalists are closer to the position of seculars and the national religious are closer to the ultra-Orthodox. However, in all groups, even among the religious and ultra-Orthodox publics, the majority think that corruption harms equality slightly or greatly.

Differences between Jews and Arabs in response to these questions were negligible, with a slight difference regarding the impact of corruption on equality: 69% of Arab respondents, compared to 61% of Jews, said corruption greatly affects equality. A likely explanation is that questions of inequality in Israel are more prominent for Arabs, as a minority exposed to discrimination and racism.

Do Current Government’s Actions Affect Corruption?

The current survey was conducted against the backdrop of a deep rift in Israeli society over a government that is headed by a leader who is on trial on charges of corruption, that named corruption-convicted Aryeh Deri as a cabinet minister before the Supreme Court invalidated the appointment for being extremely unreasonable, and that subsequently introduced a law barring the court from invoking the reasonableness standard to nix political appointments (or any government decision whatsoever). At the time of the survey, the country was in turmoil over the Knesset’s approval of the law abolishing the reasonableness standard.

In this context, one of the questions in the survey was designed to examine the public’s attitudes on the impact on corruption of the judicial reform promoted by the government. Instead of the consensus over the harm that corruption does to democracy and equality, the answers to this question predictably reflect the political schism in the Israeli street and dovetails with similar polls.

Most Israelis believe the impact is negative: 52% believe the reform will increase (11%) or greatly increase (41%) corruption, more than double the number of those who believe it will reduce it (21%). Some 15% of the respondents think the reform will have no effect.

An analysis of the answers reveals a gap between Jews and Arabs, with 49% of Jews saying the reform will increase corruption, compared to 65% of Arabs. Nevertheless, the general trend is similar: in both cases, many more respondents believe the reform will increase corruption than those who think it will reduce it. Among Jews, twice as many respondents think it will increase corruption as opposed to those who believe it will reduce it (49% versus 24%). Among Arabs, eight times as many respondents believe the reform will increase corruption as opposed to those who think it will reduce it (65% versus 8%).

As expected, however, the political polarization is even greater on this issue. Only 22% of self-declared right-wingers believe the reform will increase corruption, compared to 79% of centrists and an overwhelming 93% of left-wing respondents. A relative majority of right-wingers (40%) think the reform will reduce corruption, compared to single digits in the Center and on the Left.

Consistently, the largest gap is found in the segmentation of Jewish respondents according to degree of religiosity: only 5% of ultra-Orthodox respondents think the reform will increase corruption, while the rate who think so among seculars is 15 times higher (78%). Also, Haredim are the only demographic group in the survey where the majority of respondents (55%) believe the reform will reduce corruption. Among respondents living in Judea, Samaria, and the West Bank, a relative majority (41%) believe the reform will reduce corruption, while slightly more than a third (34%) say it will increase corruption.

On 24 July 2023, the first day of the survey, the Knesset approved the law abolishing the reasonableness standard. Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced in the media that he intends to advance a law to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee when the Knesset reopens in October. As the survey shows, the vast majority of Israelis by now realize the dangers inherent in corruption and a majority also believe that the legal “reform” will increase it. Consequently, the government’s steps can be expected to add to the fear of most Israelis that corruption will actually increase and further debilitate democracy and equality between the citizens.

The survey presented here was conducted for the Human Rights Index of Zulat for Equality and Human Rights and Reichman University’s Institute for Freedom and Responsibility on 24-31 July 2023. The questions and analysis of its findings were written by Dr. Dalia Sheindlin. The data was collected online by the iPanel company among 1,611 adults, 1,302 Jews (in Hebrew) and 309 Arabs (in Arabic), who constitute a representative sample of Israeli society. The maximum margin of error of the sample is 2.4%. The findings were weighted based on the results of the November 2022 elections.

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Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.