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January 11, 2021 5:00 pm

Israeli President Warns Decline in Public Trust Could Lead to Political Violence

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomes world leaders to the World Holocaust Forum at a dinner held at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, January 22, 2020. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned on Monday that Israel is in danger of political violence similar to last week’s assault on the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, and that Israel’s leaders must work to prevent this.

Rivlin made his remarks while presenting the Israel Democracy Institute’s annual report on the state of Israeli democracy, the Israeli Democracy Index 2020.

Among other things, the study found that, in October, 57% of Israelis thought Israeli democracy is in grave danger; this was a small increase from June’s 53% figure, and higher than previous years.

Israeli daily Maariv reported that, speaking of the findings, Rivlin said, “We must not let the terrible images from Capitol Hill be a preview of what could take place on the streets of Jerusalem in the coming months.”

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Rivlin connected this threat to Israel’s ongoing political impasse, which has seen three inconclusive elections in two years and another to come in March. He said that this has “eroded more and more the citizens’ trust in government institutions and the law.”

“When time and time again … candidates try to convince us that our mechanisms are rotten, that the supporters of the opposite parties are crooks, or even traitors, God forbid — an abominable accusation that must disappear from public discourse — they erode our confidence in ourselves and in our belief in our ability to work with each other,” he said.

“Restoring public confidence in the Knesset and the political parties, and in all state institutions, will have to be at the forefront of the minds of elected officials,” Rivlin asserted, “not just after the Knesset elections this March, but starting tomorrow morning.”

The Israel Democracy Institute report found that among Israeli Jews, there has been a drop of 9% since 2019 in those who trust the IDF, from 90% to 81%. Similarly, trust in the President of Israel has dropped to 56% from 71% in 2019 in the Supreme Court has dropped 10% in four months to 42%.

Trust in the political establishment is extremely low, with the government at 25%, the Knesset at 21%, and the political parties at a rock-bottom 14%.

There was also a dramatic change in the public’s perception of the level of social solidarity in the country, according to the Index. In June 2020, 33% of Israelis felt there was a significant level of social solidarity in the country; in October, this number had been halved to 17%.

On a more optimistic note, the survey found that an overwhelming number of all Israelis — 64% — believe Israel is a good place to live.

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