Dec 12th, 2019
The “Status Quo” is an affront to the will of the public: 63% want a civil unity government; 71% support public transportation on the Sabbath; 69% support establishing civil marriage and divorce in Israel
At the end of November, Hiddush commissioned a new poll, gauging the views of Israel’s adult Jewish population regarding key elements of religion and state in Israel, following multiple previous pre- and post-election surveys throughout the 2019 year and its 2019 Israel Religion and State Index. The new survey coincided with the end of the period for the creation of a governmental coalition or alternatively – forcing a 3rd round of elections, as well as with the nearing of International Human Rights Day.
Earlier in December, Israeli media reported on progress in the negotiations between Likud and Blue & White in their ongoing attempts to form a government coalition and avert a third round of elections. It was leaked that agreement was reached on matters of religion & state, based on maintaining Israel’s religious “status quo” with the exception of permitting public transportation on Shabbat. These underlying principles of the potential coalition are nothing less than an affront to the will of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public.
The public clearly expects its political representatives to honor its wishes and liberate the State of Israel from the religious coercion and extortion of the ultra-Orthodox parties. Seeing the way that religion/state issues played out in the elections, Israel may be closer to actualizing this vision than ever before.
Hiddush surveyed what kind of a governmental coalition the public wants: “A civil unity government, that does not depend on the religious parties and will not give in to their demands on religious matters, but would advance religious freedom, such as allowing civil marriage and divorce, and equality of civic burden” or “A coalition with the Haredi parties, based on maintaining the religious ‘status quo’ on religious matters”.
We also asked questions regarding the public’s positions on two core civil liberties, anchored in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights: 1) the right to family [civil marriage & divorce] and 2) freedom of movement [public transport on the Sabbath].
64-68% of Israel’s adult Jewish public wishes for its representatives to revolutionize the relationship between religion and state and form a broad civil coalition, which is a fundamental prerequisite for realizing the principles of religious freedom and equality of civic burden.
On all three of these questions, it's amply clear where the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews are. This preference is also shared by the majority of Likud voters – with the exception of the question regarding the formation of a civil unity government [see below]. Hiddush has been polling the public’s desire for a civil unity government in its surveys since 2013, and particularly often over the course of the past year, in a series of pre- and post-election surveys since the beginning of 2019. Although the various surveys have examined the public's positions using different formulations of the question, the result has remained unequivocal and stable: 64-68% of Israel’s adult Jewish public wishes for its representatives to revolutionize the relationship between religion and state and form a broad civil coalition, which is a fundamental prerequisite for realizing the principles of religious freedom and equality of civic burden.
In this latest survey, 63% of Israel’s adult Jewish public [that expressed an opinion] wants a civil unity government, which will promote religious freedom and equality, and which will not be dependent upon the religious parties, nor submit to their demands on issues of religion and state. This is the preference of 96% of Blue & White voters, 92% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, as well as 44% of Likud voters. Most secular Israelis [89%] and most of those who identify as traditional support this. This is also preferred by 100% of Democratic Camp and 94% of Labor-Gesher voters, 89% of the secular public, and 72% of the non-religious traditional public.
Israel’s political leaders, on the other hand, repeatedly raise the “status quo” flag to help them buy the religious parties’ political support, betraying the public and their very own voters in the process.
As for freedom of movement, 71% of Israel’s adult Jewish population supports public transportation on the Sabbath. The survey demonstrates how those mayors and municipal authorities who recently launched public transportation services on Saturday, are faithfully representing the will of the public. Israel’s political leaders, on the other hand, repeatedly raise the “status quo” flag to help them buy the religious parties’ political support, betraying the public and their very own voters in the process.
It is evident that the right to freedom of movement on the Sabbath and holidays is important to most of the Jewish public in Israel. Those who support it include 94% of secular Israelis, 82% of those who identify as ‘traditional, not so religious’, and 59% of those who identify as ‘traditional, close to religion’. Most of the Zionist Orthodox (73%) and the ultra-Orthodox (97%) oppose the operation of public transportation on the Sabbath. A huge majority of Blue & White voters [95%], Yisrael Beiteinu [96%], and a large majority of Likud voters [68%] support this cause.
Notably, the public’s responses to the possibility of establishing civil marriage and divorce (the right to family) was very similar to its views on public transport: 69% support civil marriage in Israel. As the survey demonstrates, most of the adult Jewish public in Israel supports this right, which hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are denied. 69% of those who expressed an opinion support legislating the instituting of civil marriage and divorce in Israel for those couples who prefer it. This position is shared by 93% of secular Israelis, 79% of those who identify as ‘traditional, not so religious’, and 66% of those who identify as ‘traditional, close to religion’. Much like the issue of public transportation on the Sabbath, civil marriage and divorce enjoy the support of a huge majority of Blue & White [98%], Yisrael Beiteinu [96%], and even a large majority of Likud voters [64%].
Israel is the only Western democracy that does not allow its citizens freedom of marriage. The world map of marriage freedom created by Hiddush ranks Israel alongside extremist Islamic states in the context of marriage freedom and presents the current state of marriage freedom in all countries throughout the world.
According to Hiddush’s analysis, more than 700,000 Israeli citizens cannot marry in Israel at all because of the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over marriages of Jews and the complete absence of civil marriage. Among these are some 400,000 immigrants from the former USSR who are not recognized as Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate, as well as those that it disqualifies from getting married for religious reasons: members of LGBTQ community, non-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox converts, and other populations that face additional religious restrictions on their marriage. Israel is the only Western democracy that does not allow its citizens freedom of marriage. The world map of marriage freedom created by Hiddush ranks Israel alongside extremist Islamic states in the context of marriage freedom and presents the current state of marriage freedom in all countries throughout the world.
Members of the Likud have come to perceive the formation of a civil unity government as undermining their party’s ability to keep its partnership with the ultra-Orthodox parties and lead the next government. It should be pointed out that when Hiddush asked this same question prior to the September elections, there was majority support for a civil unity government even among Likud voters. However, when the the Likud leadership put all its eggs into the ultra-Orthodox basket, indicating an unwillingness to give up its pact with them, some among the Likud voters drew a line between their clear support for religious freedom and their ambivalence as to giving up the political bond with the Haredi parties. Thus, in mid-April 55% of Likud voters [who expressed an opinion] preferred a “wide coalition based on the Likud and Blue & White without the ultra-Orthodox parties” rather than “a narrow coalition based on support of the ultra-Orthodox paties, which requires accepting their demands on religious matters”. At the beginning of June, 57% of Likud voters [who expressed an opinion] preferred “a civil government [that will include the Likud and Blue & White, assuming that the elections results will not vary drastically from the April elections], which would not depend on the ultra-Orthodox parties and would advance religious freedom and equality in shouldering the civic burden”, over “a government that depends on the support of the ultra-Orthodox parties and acceptance of their demands in matters of religion & state”.
It's important to stress that these issues are not merely about politics; they are violations of basic human rights respected throughout the entire Western democratic world. Unfortunately, these very core rights are trampled and flipped into political bargaining chips in Israel. The recent election campaigns brought many to vote for the realization of the vision of Israel supported by the public; and they have brought us closer to an Israel that upholds religious freedom and equality. A civil unity government is needed to finally realize these rights, and we hope that such can and will be formed.