Political uncertainty fuels rise in pessimism about future of democracy

Political uncertainty fuels rise in pessimism about future of democracy

Poll reveals sharp decrease in public trust as coalition deadlock persists; survey also finds that most Israelis blame Netanyahu for impasse with Blue and White

Man voting in the town of Beit Shemesh. (Nati Shohat/Flash 90)
Man voting in the town of Beit Shemesh. (Nati Shohat/Flash 90)

Capping off a months-long downward trend, over two-thirds of Israelis are pessimistic about the future of the country’s democracy, according to a new poll released recently as Israel appears to be heading toward new elections.

Some 68 percent of Israelis said they were not optimistic about the future of Israeli democracy, a sharp decline from previous months measured by the latest Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) Israeli Voice Index survey.

Among Jewish Israelis, the pessimism was felt most among center- and left-leaning respondents at 78% and 75% respectively, while 60% of right-wing respondents said the future of Israeli democracy was bleak.

Some 77% of Arab Israeli respondents said they felt pessimistic when they were asked to grade the state of Israeli democracy.

The numbers represent a sharp decline in the public’s optimism about the state of Israeli democracy since April, when the first of two inconclusive elections was held.

In the April poll, 46% of Israelis reported feeling optimistic about the future of democracy. That number climbed steadily over the next six months, during which a second election was held that also yielded no clear winner.

Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, are able to secure a parliamentary majority, leaving Israel with a political system in limbo and barreling toward its third election in under 12 months.

After both Netanyahu and Gantz failed to cobble together a coalition in the time allotted to them, Israel is in the final 21-day period for a majority of the 120-seat parliament to throw support behind any of its members.

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally held under the banner ‘protesting the coup’ in Tel Aviv, on November 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In the meantime, a growing number of Israeli lawmakers, thinkers and public figures have called on Netanyahu to step down citing the uncertainty of the political deadlock.

Despite calls for his resignation, Netanyahu seems determined to cling to power and fight the charges from the prime minister’s office.

But the IDI poll released last week found that a majority of Israelis think he should step aside in light of his criminal indictment. Some 59% of respondents said Netanyahu should resign, at least temporarily, following the attorney general’s announcing charges against Netanyahu last month.

Some 35% said Netanyahu should resign and stand trial as a private citizen; 8% said he should be allowed to sign a plea bargain and leave political life; and another 16% said he should resign but be allowed to return to his post if cleared of wrongdoing. On the other side, 17% of respondents said Netanyahu should be allowed to continue in his position as allowed under Israeli law, and the remaining 15% said the prime minister was entitled to immunity.

The poll also revealed that many Israelis hold Netanyahu responsible for the months of political deadlock.

According to the study, 43% respondents said Netanyahu was to blame, while 38% cast responsibility on Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman. Only a small minority of respondents, 7%, said Gantz was responsible for the deadlock.

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