Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel have become significantly more right wing and anti-Arab in the past 12 years, according to a new Haifa University poll.
Only 13 per cent of Russian-speaking immigrants polled said they were prepared to give up any territory in exchange for peace with the Palestinians. But when the research team asked the same question in 1999, some 37 per cent were.
In 1999, almost one in five immigrants was willing to have a Muslim Arab neighbour. In the latest survey, the figure dropped to 7 per cent.
Sociologist Majid Al-Haj, Haifa University's Dean of Research and director of the survey, said that while there has been a move to the right and towards more anti-Arab sentiment in Israel, Russian-speakers have shifted more. In his view comparative figures prove this: some 55 per cent of the immigrants want Israel to reduce the number of Arabs in the country compared to 41 per cent of other Israeli Jews.
Mr Al-Haj believes that another result in the survey offers a clue as to what has happened: 84 per cent of Russian-speakers feel "at home" in Israel compared to 53 per cent in 1999. He believes that designating Arabs as outsiders helps them to feel like insiders. "They have reached the conclusion that hatred of Arabs is an entrance ticket to the core of Israeli society," he said.
The research has sparked a disagreement between Mr Al-Haj, an Israeli Arab, and Ukrainian-born Zeev Khanin, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry's chief scientist. Mr Khanin said that he does not accept the results, and believes that the difference in attitudes between Russian-speakers and other Israelis is "small".