By Or Kashti, Haaretz – 31 March 2011
Study shows increase in number of Jewish youths that put defining Israel as a Jewish state as a number one goal, while fewer youths recognize the importance of Israel’s identity as a democratic country
Young Israelis are moving much further to the right politically, according to a survey to be released Thursday.
The study found that 60 percent of Jewish teenagers in Israel, between 15 and 18 years old, prefer “strong” leaders to the rule of law, while 70 percent say that in cases where state security and democratic values conflict, security should come first. A similar picture emerges in the 21 to 24 age group.
The comprehensive survey was conducted on behalf of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation, in cooperation with the Macro Center for Political Economics, by the Dahaf Institute.
According to the authors, the report shows a strengthening of Jewish-nationalist beliefs among Jewish youths, and a clear weakening of the importance given to the state’s liberal-democratic base.
Among Jewish youths, support for the definition of Israel as a Jewish state as the most important goal for the country grew from 18.1 percent in 1998 to 33.2 percent last year, the survey reports. At the same time, there has been a consistent drop in those who back the importance of Israel’s identity as a democratic country – from 26.1 percent in 1998 to 14.3 percent in 2010.
Support for Israel to eventually live in peace with its neighboring countries also fell significantly, from 28.4 percent 12 years ago to 18.2 percent last year. This is the third such survey of young people conducted by the two organizations in the past 12 years.
The study was carried out in July 2010, among a representative sample of Jewish and Arab youth. It included 1,600 participants, 800 aged 15-18 and 800 21-24, which is considered a relatively large group.
The right wing enjoyed a clear majority of support among the young people surveyed. Among Jews, the numbers stood at 57 percent and 66 percent for the two age groups respectively, while those who said they considered themselves to be left wing made up only 13 percent and 10 percent of those respondents.
The support for the right rose overall from 48 percent to 62 percent during the study’s 12-year period, while support for the left fell from 32 percent to 12 percent.
As to the possibility of peace with the Palestinians, 755 of the Jewish respondents said they do not believe negotiations will lead to peace, and most prefer that the present situation continue.
Israel must significantly increase the amount of money it spends on educating its young people about democracy, said Dr. Roby Nathanson, the director general of the Macro Center.
“There is not enough awareness about democratic values among youths,” he said. “Democracy is not just voting once every four years. It also includes values such as tolerance and consideration for minority groups, the weaker populations and those who are different [from the mainstream].”