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.