Study: Russian-speaking immigrants moving further right on Israeli political spectrum
Former-USSR immigrants polled also say they feel more at home in Israel.
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel in the 1990s are moving further to the right of the political spectrum, even as they increasingly feel part of Israeli society, according to a new poll.
According to the study, only 13 percent of immigrants polled said they were prepared to concede any territory at all in exchange for peace with the Palestinians, down from 37 percent in 1999.
The report also found that 84 percent of immigrants say they feel "at home" in Israel, up from 53 percent in a survey conducted 12 years ago. Nevertheless, only 62 percent said they are sure they will stay here, virtually unchanged from 60 percent in 1999.
Dr. Zeev Khanin, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry's chief scientist, dismissed the significance of this finding, saying that similarly high percentages of veteran Israelis describe themselves as being unsure they will stay here. This ambivalence is due mainly to the challenges of life in Israel, "and isn't necessarily connected to absorption difficulties," he argued.
Central Bureau of Statistics data seems to contradict this claim, showing that of Israelis who left the country in 2008 and stayed away for more than a year, almost one-third were immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But the ministry said the number of people leaving the country permanently has dropped since 2004, and today, only some 97,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union live overseas.
The study also surveyed the immigrants' attitudes toward Israeli Arabs and the Israeli-Arab conflict. It found that while immigrants from the former Soviet Union had negative attitudes toward Arabs back in the 1990s as well, this trend has strengthened in the intervening decade. According to Prof. Majid Al-Haj, Haifa University's vice president and dean of research, who served as lead researcher on the study, the immigrants' views are more extreme than those of veteran Israelis.
For instance, the study found, 55 percent of the immigrants said Israel should work to reduce the number of Arabs in the country, compared to only 41 percent of veteran Israelis. About two-thirds said Israeli Arabs constitute a national security risk, compared with 59 percent of veteran Israelis. And only 4 percent would accept their child marrying a Muslim Arab, compared to 9 percent of veteran Israelis.
These findings contradict those of other researchers, who say that after 15 or more years in the country, the views of immigrants from the former Soviet Union are by now little different from those of veteran Israelis.
The survey questioned some 600 immigrants, of whom almost one-fourth would not be defined as Jewish according to Jewish law. Al-Haj said the latter group actually had more liberal attitudes toward the country's Arab citizens than did veteran Israelis. But they, too, were more hawkish with regard to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Since the last survey, immigrants' views have grown even more extreme on the average. For instance, only 7 percent expressed willingness to have a Muslim Arab neighbor, down from 18 percent in 1999. Indeed, Muslim Arabs were at the bottom of the immigrants' list of desirable neighbors, below foreign workers (who were second-to-last ), Ethiopian Jews and the ultra-Orthodox.
Unsurprisingly, secular Ashkenazi Jews were the most sought-after neighbors.
If at one time, there was hope that immigrants from the former Soviet Union would ease the Jewish-Arab schism inside Israel, these hopes have proven false, Al-Haj told Haaretz.
"Essentially, they joined the existing national consensus, in which Arabs lie beyond the bounds of legitimacy," he said. "If we thought these immigrants, who are primarily secular, would contribute to broadening the boundaries of legitimacy, it didn't happen. They didn't serve as a bridge. The disturbing reality is that immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States are leading the polarization rather than the reconciliation."