A top Israeli lawyer has highlighted the difficulties for the Arab community in Israel, telling an interfaith audience in London that “Arabs usually work with Jews but Jews don’t necessarily work with Arabs”.

Basha’er Fahum Jayousi, the co-chair of The Abraham Fund Initiative (TAFI), made the comments in an interview with Sarah Sackman, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green in last year’s general election.

Jayousi, the former chair of the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa who has spoken at Israel’s prestigious Herzliya Conference, was addressing the root causes of racial tension in the county.

She said: “In order for our community to exist, we go to universities, we get into workplaces, we go shopping, we do all that with Jews, while a Jew in Israel can and does go through his life by not visiting an Arab town and not having a real encounter with an Arab citizen of Israel.”

TAFI director Anton Goodman agreed, citing recent studies from the respected Pew Research Center. “More than 60 percent of Jewish Israelis have never been to an Arab town, 70 percent of Jewish high-schoolers think Arab citizens shouldn’t have the right to vote, and just over half of Israel’s Jewish citizens think Arab citizens should be transferred from the state.”

He said there was a “toxic rhetoric from those using the politics of fear and security,” and that while the government has quietly adopted a policy of introducing spoken Arabic into Jewish primary schools, Education Minister Naftali Bennett “refused to mention it, because it would antagonise his key voter base”.

Jayousi paid tribute to the Israeli government’s recent decree that 20 percent of every ministry’s budget should be allocated to Arab towns, reflecting the country’s population. “The change of policy is extremely important because it will have a long-term real effect.. This has been a truly big step.” However, she said the money now equates to about NIS 2 billion, “whereas to truly bridge the gap [in resources between Jewish and Arab towns] you would need about NIS 80 billion.”

On the subject of segregated towns, Joyousi said: “Since the creation of the State of Israel, not a single Arab town has been established, as opposed to tens of new Jewish towns and villages. So one new Arab town would be a very good start!”