Israeli nationality law
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Israeli nationality law defines the terms in which a person can be granted citizenship of Israel. It also deals with the Right of Return for Jewish diaspora. In general, Israel's nationality follows jus sanguinis as the primary mechanism through which a person may obtain citizenships, rather than jus soli.
Rights of citizens
- Israeli citizens have the right to fully participate in the political system of Israel.
- Israeli citizens have the right to obtain an Israeli passport.
- Israeli citizens have the right to travel into and out of Israel whenever they wish (Note: this right may be limited at certain times with special warrants)
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
Virtually all responsibilities are imposed upon citizens and non-citizen residents of Israel equally.
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 leaving Israel.
Military service is legally mandatory for virtually all Israeli citizens and residents although various exemptions can be granted. Certain ethnic groups, such as Arab Israelis, have received a blanket exemption.
Acquisition of citizenship
Law of Return
The Law of Return grants all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel and almost automatic Israeli citizenship upon arrival in Israel. In the 1970s the Law of Return was expanded to grant the same rights to the spouse of a Jew, the children of a Jew and their spouses, and the grandchildren of a Jew and their spouses, provided that the Jew did not practice a religion other than Judaism willingly. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that Jews or the descendants of Jews that actively practice a religion other than Judaism are not entitled to immigrate to Israel as they would no longer be considered Jews under the Law of Return, irrespective of their status under halacha (Jewish religious law). On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court 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 law distinguishes between the Law of Return, which allows for Jews and their descendants to immigrate to Israel, and Israel's nationality law, which formally grants Israeli citizenship. In other words, the Law of Return does not itself determine Israeli citizenship; it merely allows for Jews and their eligible descendants to permanently live in Israel. Israel does, however, grant citizenship to those who immigrated under the Law of Return if the applicant so desires.
A non-Israeli Jew or an eligible descendant of a non-Israeli 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. Eligible applicants under the Law of Return have no claim to any of the rights or privileges of an Israeli citizen until they are formally granted Israeli citizenship. This is possible after one year of residency in Israel. New arrivals are issued an Israeli Travel Document during this year, after which they can apply for citizenship.
Citizenship by residence
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.
Citizenship by descent
A child of 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.
Citizenship by descent, on the principle of jus sanguinis, is limited to only one generation born abroad. Despite this limitation, descendants of an Israeli national born abroad may be eligible to 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.
Citizenship by marriage
Israel has traditionally automatically granted citizenship to spouses of Israeli citizens. However, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003 suspended this practice in the case of citizens of a number of countries, which some have termed "enemy nationals". In January 2012, the Supreme Court of Israel upheld the validity of the law.
Cancellation of citizenship
There are cases in which the state can initiate a cancellation of citizenship of an Israeli citizen. Article 11 of the Israeli nationality law establishes three circumstances for which citizenship can be revoked:
- If the person entered a state which is considered an enemy of Israel, or obtained citizenship of an enemy state.
- If the person committed an act which is considered a breach of loyalty to the country.
- If the person's citizenship was given to him/her on the basis of false information. In such a case, the revocation might also apply to the citizenship of the person's children.
Israel allows its citizens to hold dual (or multiple) citizenship.
A dual national is considered an Israeli citizen for all purposes, and is entitled to enter Israel without a visa, stay in Israel according to his own desire, engage in any profession and work with any employer according to Israeli law. An exception is that under an additional law added to the Basic Law: the Knesset (Article 16A) according to which Knesset members cannot pledge allegiance unless their foreign citizenship has been revoked, if possible, under the laws of that country.
A dual national is not considered a foreign citizen under Israeli Security Service Law and is subject to a mandatory military service according to that law; is considered a citizen regarding the criminal liability of Israeli civilians according to the Israeli Penal Law (and accordingly is not entitled to consular access by a representative of the other country); and is considered a citizen according to the Israeli laws of personal status, such as the authority jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts in the matters of marriage and divorce, according to the Israeli Rabbinical courts jurisdictions law. 
Israeli citizens cannot renounce Israeli citizenship. They can apply to the Israeli Minister of Interior to cancel their citizenship. The final decision is that of the Minister, who can refuse the application, according to his own discretion. The policy of the Minister 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 Israel for a long time.
- Nationality Law, 5712-1952, amended from time to time.
- "Acquisition of Israeli Nationality". Mfa.gov.il. 2001-08-20. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- "Israel upholds citizenship bar for Palestinian spouses". BBC News. 12 January 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
- Rabbinical Courts Jurisdiction (Marriage and Divorce) Law, 5713 – 1953
- Renouncing Israeli citizenship, Israeli ministry of foreign affairs