The Washington Times - August 3, 2009, 03:25AM

JERUSALEM — President Shimon Peres defended Israel’s democratic structure after a report showed most Israelis have low confidence in the country’s public institutions.

The report released today by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) found that 61 percent of the Israeli public is not satisfied with the way the country’s democracy functions. Just 40 percent of Israelis trust the police and 89 percent of the Israeli public believes that corruption is commonplace.

During a presentation of the study at his at his residence, Peres defended the workings of government, saying democracy by its very nature is “tiring.”

“Admittedly there is corruption that prevails, but it is because we fight against it that it surfaces,” Peres said. “Even with all its criticisms, a life lived in a democratic state is more stable and hope than a non-democratic state.”

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said part of the lack of enthusiasm in Israel’s democracy is due to the fact that Israel is an indirect democracy, i.e., members of the parliament are often named by party leaders rather than through direct election.

“There are not many countries in the Western world that live fully under this regime, under this system,” Sa’ar said. “There is a substantial difference between the commitment of an elected person and the commitment of a non-elected person. Many of the public officers have not been elected at all. Under these circumstances, their allegiance is not to the public, but to a certain person. There is no such thing as accountability.”

Tamar S. Hermann, a senior fellow at the IDI and dean of academic studies at the Open University of Israel, presented a summary of the results to Peres, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.

“Compared to other democracies in the west, we are in a very good place, but compared to where we were a few years ago, we are not in a very good place,” Hermann said “We have to improve the feeling of citizens so they can feel like they have influence in what is going on.”

The IDI study also examined Israeli absorption of immigrants, particularly Russians leaving the former Soviet Union 20 years ago following the Cold War.  Just 40 percent of immigrants told the IDI researchers that they felt they had power to change the frameworks in which they live, work or study, compared to 80 percent of the general population.