Israeli nationality law

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Israel's nationality law defines the terms through which one can be granted citizenship of the state of Israel. It also includes the Right of Return for Jewish diaspora. Israeli law also follows jus sanguinis as the primary mechanism through which one may obtain citizenships, rather than jus soli.

Rights of citizens[edit]

Other rights are granted equally to citizens and permanent residents of Israel, among them: the right to work within Israel, the right to extenuation of tax payments, the right to a pension when needed from the social security services, and the right to vote within the scope of local ordinances. Residents who are not citizens may, however, lose their status (and thus any rights provided to them in Israel) if they move outside of Israel's borders (outside of the Green Line including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem), contrary to the privileges of citizens which enable them to re-settle in Israel at anytime.

Responsibilities of citizens[edit]

Virtually all responsibilities are imposed upon citizens and non-citizen residents of Israel equally.[citation needed]

A responsibility which is imposed on Israeli citizens only is the requirement to be in possession of an Israeli passport at all times when outside of the country. Israeli citizens must thus have acquired a passport before being allowed to leave Israel.

Military service is legally mandatory for virtually all of Israel's citizens and residents although various exemptions can be granted. Certain ethnic groups, such as Arab Israelis, have received a blanket exemption.

An Israeli citizen is obligated to abstain from assisting a country or an organization which is defined as an enemy of Israel. Such assistance may lead to deprivation of citizenship at the advice of the Minister of Internal Affairs (in addition to a possible criminal trial).

Citizenship acquisition[edit]


The Law of Return defines that all Jews possessing an Oleh's certificate[clarification needed] shall become Israel nationals[1][citation needed] and be allowed to immigrate to Israel. Such a certificate would almost automatically turn into Israeli citizenship upon arrival in Israel if so desired. In the 1970s the Law of Return was further expanded, and it was defined that the spouse of a Jew, the children of a Jew and their spouses, and the grandchildren of a Jew and their spouses would also be covered under the Law of Return and thus be eligible for an Oleh's certificate provided that the Jew on behalf of whom they request the certificate did not practice a religion other than Judaism willingly (he or she may, however, be a non-observant Jew). In 1999, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that Jews or the descendants of Jews that actively practice a religion other than Judaism would not be allowed to immigrate to Israel as they would no longer be considered Jews under the provisions of the Law of Return. On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled in a case brought by a number of people with Jewish fathers and grandfathers whose applications for citizenship had been rejected on the grounds that they were Messianic Jews. The argument was made by the applicants that they had never been Jews according to halakha, and were not therefore excluded by the conversion clause. This argument was upheld in the ruling, and the government agreed to reprocess their applications.

Israeli legislators chose to make a clear distinction between the Law of Return, which allows for Jews and their descendants to immigrate to Israel, and between Israel's nationality law, which formally grants Israeli citizenship based on the Oleh's certificate. In other words, the Law of Return in and of itself does not determine Israeli citizenship; it merely allows for Jews and their eligible descendants to permanently relocate within the territory of Israel. The state of Israel does, however, grant citizenship to any applicant who immigrated to Israel via the Law of Return if the applicant so desires, though this is not mandated by the Law of Return itself.

Another important distinction should be made between Israeli citizens who live abroad and Jews who are covered under the provisions of the Law of Return. A non-Israel Jew or an eligible descendant of a non-Israel Jew needs to request approval to immigrate to Israel, a request which can be denied for a variety of reasons including (but not limited to): possession of a criminal record, currently infected with a contagious disease, or otherwise viewed as a threat to Israeli society. Israeli citizens on the other hand are allowed to travel within the borders of Israel whenever they so desire without limitation. Israeli citizens are also the only persons allowed to obtain an Israeli passport. Eligible applicants under the Law of Return have no claim to any of the rights or privileges of an Israeli citizen unless they are formally cleared by the government, given an Oleh's certificate, and granted Israeli citizenship. This is possible after one year of residency in Israel under the Oleh's certificate. New arrivals making Aliyah (return to Israel) are issued an Israeli Travel Document during this year, after which they can apply for citizenship.


Citizenship by residence was intended for non-Jewish denizens of the British Mandate of Palestine (Arabs, Druze, Bedouins, etc.) who were considered to be associated with Palestine during the period immediately prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Such denizens who were still within the territorial confines of Israel after the war were granted full Israeli citizenship. In order to determine who was eligible for citizenship under this provision, the state of Israel conducted a population registration in 1952 and again in the 1980s. Those found to meet the requirements obtained Israeli citizenship. For purposes regarding modern Israeli citizenship, this section is usually irrelevant.


A child born to an Israeli citizen (including children born outside of Israel as first generation out of Israel) is considered an Israeli citizen. Persons born outside Israel are Israeli citizens, if their father or mother holds Israeli citizenship, acquired either by birth in Israel, according to the Law of Return, by residence, or by naturalization.[2] In other words, the principle of jus sanguinis is limited to only one generation born abroad. Despite this limitation, the descendants of an Israeli national abroad may be eligible to obtain Israeli citizenship through other methods, such as the Law of Return.


Adults may acquire Israeli citizenship through naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization, a person must have resided in Israel for three years out of the previous five years. In addition, the applicant must have a right to reside in Israel on a permanent basis. All naturalization requests are, however, at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior.

Position of Arab-Palestinians[edit]

In January 2012, the Supreme Court of Israel upheld a law banning Palestinians who marry Israelis from gaining Israeli citizenship.[3]

Cancellation of Citizenships[edit]

There are cases in which the state can initiate a cancellation of a citizenship of an Israeli citizen. Article 11 of the Israeli nationality law establishes three circumstances for which a citizenship would be revoked by the state:

Furthermore, an Israeli citizen who wants to renounce his/her citizenship can address the Israeli Interior Minister in writing and ask for it to be done. Nevertheless, the final decision would be up to the Interior minister to make, and he can also refuse the application, according to his own discretion. The policy of the Interior ministry has so far made it difficult for people to give up citizenship, requiring them, among other things, to prove that they have been living outside of the state of Israel for a long time.[4]

Dual citizenship[edit]

Israel allows citizens to hold foreign citizenships whilst concurrently holding Israeli citizenship, a situation known as dual (or multiple) citizenship.

For example, a citizen of Israel who also has a foreign citizenship is considered a foreign citizen under Israeli Security Service Law and is subject to a mandatory military service according to that law; he is considered a citizen of Israel regarding the criminal liability of Israeli civilians according to the Israeli Penal Law; and he is considered a citizen of Israel according to the Israeli laws of personal status, such as the authority jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts in the matters of marriages and divorces, according to the Israeli Rabinical courts jurisdictions law.

Regarding entrance to Israel, staying in Israel and working in Israel, an Israeli citizen which also possesses a foreign citizenship is considered an Israeli citizen for all purposes. Therefore, he is entitled to enter Israel without a need of a visa, stay in Israel according to his own desire, engage in any profession and work with each employer according to the provisions of the Israeli law.

An exception to Israeli citizens' right to dual citizenship exists under an additional law added to the Basic Law: the Knesset (חוק יסוד: הכנסת) (Article 16A) according to which Knesset members would not be able to pledge allegiance unless their foreign citizenship has been revoked, if possible under the laws of that country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Acquisition of Israeli Nationality". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Acquisition of Israeli Nationality". 2001-08-20. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  3. ^ "Israel upholds citizenship bar for Palestinian spouses". BBC News. 12 January 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  4. ^ Renouncing Israeli citizenship, Israeli ministry of foreign affairs

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