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Overwhelming majority of Israelis are against judicial overhaul proposed by government, want compromise and dialogue

Nationwide polls reveal that Israelis believe the highest tensions in Jewish state currently are between the political left and right

Thousands of Israeli protesters rally against the government's proposed judicial reforms, in Tel Aviv, Feb. 11, 2023. (Photo: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

More than 60%of all Israelis do not want the government to go ahead with the proposed judicial overhaul, according to a poll taken on Friday by Israel’s Channel 12 news.

The overhaul has been fiercely criticized by large sectors of Israeli society, including lawyers and judges, economists, executives and the high-tech sector. It has also caused mass demonstrations in a number of Israeli cities. Opponents believe the overhaul will significantly weaken the powers of Israel’s High Court of Justice, give the government control over the appointment of judges and significantly limit the Israeli High Court’s ability to annul legislation.

Some 31% of those surveyed said the judicial overhaul should be stopped, whereas another 31% said the government should delay any reforms to make possible a debate about its contents. While 24% said the reforms should go ahead as planned, 14% said that they were unsure.

The poll also found that 42%of Israelis who had voted for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition supported either stopping or delaying the judicial overhaul, while 45% said it should go ahead as planned.

The poll also found that 28% of Israelis passively support the nationwide strike that was called for this Monday by protest leaders. Approximately 22% of those polled planned to go on strike themselves, with 31% against the strike and another 19%were unsure.

Among voters for Netanyahu’s government coalition, 27% backed the strike, while 56%were against and 17% were unsure.

Earlier this month the Israel Democracy Institute, an Israeli think tank, found in its monthly poll  – the Israeli Voice Index  – that 63% of those polled were “in favor of dialogue between the different political camps regarding the proposed legislative changes in an attempt to reach compromise.”

The poll also revealed that Israelis see their country as going through the greatest divisions since 2012, when the Israeli Voice Index poll first began, with about 31% of those polled believing that “civil strife, including violence, was likely.” Another 55% percent of respondents believed such a situation unlikely.

When asked whether the plans for judicial overhaul were good or bad, 43% said they were bad, whereas 31% described them as good and the remaining 26% said they were unsure.

A dramatic 42.5% of Israelis polled believe that the highest tensions in the Jewish state are between those on the left and the right, up from 34% in October, a number that had already increased from 27.7%, the average for the past decade.

However, Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) released a poll last Tuesday which showed a majority of Israelis think the conflict over the judicial reforms will, indeed, lead to civil strife.

According to that poll, 60%of Israelis believe the judicial reform struggle will deteriorate into violence, while 35% think that it will even lead to civil war. Only 31% believe that there is a “low to non-existent” chance of violence – a very different outcome than the previous poll mentioned above.

“These numbers appear unrealistic at first glance but, in fact, as we double and triple checked, we found that Israelis don’t think the possibility of some sort of violent conflict is just political rhetoric or media spin; it’s a real concern,” JPPI President Yedidia Stern said.

Both the Israeli Voice Index and the JPPI polls revealed that the majority of Israelis want more dialogue.

“There is clear, broad public support for compromise and dialogue among those who support the reform and those who oppose it. There is a huge silent majority of Israelis who fear a civil war and want their elected officials to enter into a negotiation process. These survey results are a flashing red light that Israeli politicians must heed. Our nation depends on it,” Stern said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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