JEUSALEM—An annual survey of Arabs in Israel directed by a Haifa University sociologist shows they are self-identifying as Israeli Arabs rather than as Palestinians in greater numbers and increasingly believe Israel is a good place to live.
According to the Israeli news website, Nana 10, a research team headed by Prof. Sammy Smooha found that 52.8 percent of the 700 Arabs polled in 2013 accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-majority state compared to 47.4 percent the year before. One of the major reasons for the breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been the Authority’s refusal to accept Israel’s demand that the Palestinians acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.
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The poll also found that 63.5 percent of Arabs in the country considered Israel "a good place to live." This compares to 58.5 percent in 2012.
There was a substantial rise in the percentage of those who identified themselves as "Israeli Arabs" rather than as Palestinians, according to the poll results: from 32.5 percent in 2012 to 42.5 percent last year.
The violence afflicting neighboring countries as a result of the Arab Spring may have played a role in the increasingly positive attitude among Israeli Arabs towards Israel, which has remained remarkably stable among the turmoil.
Smooha has conducted an annual poll monitoring Arab-Jewish relations in Israel since 2003. The results sometimes show a wide disparity between general Arab opinion and that of the Arab political leadership in the country.
The latter, Smooha notes, adamantly opposes government proposals that Arab youths, who are exempt from military service, perform instead national service such as working in hospitals. National service is an option for Jewish youths who do not serve in the army for physical or conscientious reasons. While more than 70 percent of Arab youths and parents polled favored such a program, Smooha said, the political leadership feared a blurring of Arab identity and acceleration of the Israelization process among Arab youths.
The results of the Haifa University poll among Israeli Arabs echo the results of American-sponsored poll in 2011, carried out by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion in Bethlehem, which found that 35 percent of East Jerusalem Arabs, given the option of living in a Palestinian state or Israel, would choose Israel. Only 30 percent said they would prefer Palestine.
The remainder said they did not know or declined to answer. Those who preferred Israeli citizenship cited pragmatic matters such as better job opportunities, health care, welfare, unemployment payments, and overall stability.