Israeli Nationality Law of 1952

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Israeli Citizenship Act
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Parliament of Israel
An Act relating to Israeli citizenship
Enacted by Government of Israel
Status: Current legislation
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Israeli Nationality Law of 1952, which has been amended from time to time,[1] defines the criteria under which a person is regarded a citizen of Israel. The Law is in addition to the Law of Return, which entitles Jews and their spouses and descendants to migrate to Israel and does not itself bestow Israeli citizenship. In general, the primary principle of Israeli citizenship is jus sanguinis (citizenship by descent), rather than jus soli (citizenship by place of birth). A citizen of the modern state of Israel is called an Israeli.

Apart from citizenship, there is another civil status which can be held by residents of Israel: the permanent residency status. It is most common among Syrian citizens of the Golan Heights and among East Jerusalem residents, but it occurs also among other non-citizens.

Rights of citizens[edit]

Although not a part of the nationality law, Israeli citizens have the following rights:

  • to fully participate in the political system of Israel.
  • to an Israeli passport.
  • to travel into and out of Israel whenever they wish, but 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 Israel's borders (outside 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 any time.

Responsibilities of citizens[edit]

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

Israeli citizens are required to have an Israeli passport at all times when outside the country, which must have been acquired before leaving Israel.

Military service is legally mandatory for most Israeli citizens and residents although various exemptions can be granted. Certain ethnic groups, such as Arab Israelis, who comprise 20% of the Israeli population, have received a blanket exemption.

Acquisition of citizenship[edit]

Law of Return[edit]

The Law of Return grants all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel and claim 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 Jewish Messianics. 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. Within three months of arriving in Israel under the Law of Return, immigrants automatically receive Israeli citizenship unless they explicitly request not to.

Citizenship by residence[edit]

Citizenship by residence was intended for non-Jewish denizens of the British Mandate of Palestine, such as Arabs, Druze and Bedouin, 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[edit]

A child (including children born outside Israel as first generation out of Israel) automatically acquires Israeli citizenship at birth if either or both of his or her parents are Israeli citizens. Persons born outside Israel are Israeli citizens if their father or mother holds Israeli citizenship, acquired either by birth in Israel, under the Law of Return, by residence, or by naturalization.[2]

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.

Citizenship by adoption[edit]

A non-Israeli child adopted by Israeli citizens is entitled to Israeli citizenship on the day of the adoption if it is made under Israeli law. A child adopted outside of Israel by Israeli citizens who are not residents of Israel can receive Israeli citizenship if both adoptive parents consent to it.[3]


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. 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.[4]

Citizenship by marriage[edit]

Traditionally, Israel granted citizenship to a non-Israeli spouse or partner of a Jewish Israeli citizen under the Law of Return. However, this practice was suspended in 1999 due to immigration concerns if the Jewish spouse had done Aliyah previous to the marriage or is an Israeli citizen by birth.[citation needed]

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003 suspended the right of naturalization by marriage of a non-Israeli spouse who lives in the Palestinian territories.[5] The suspension was extended several times, most recently in 2016. The practice was suspended because some West Bank militants used the process to gain access to Israel proper with all related privileges, such as unrestricted movement.[citation needed]

Process for obtaining citizenship by descent[edit]

From inside Israel the Israeli parent(s) must go to the Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior) with the child and the child's original birth certificate that lists the Israeli parent(s) as the parents of the child. In addition, the Israeli parent(s) need(s) to bring their Teudat Zehut (National ID) or their Israeli passport and the child's foreign passport.[6] If the parents are not married or did not register their marriage with the Misrad Hapnim, or the Misrad HaChutz (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), both of the parents must be in attendance at the Misrad Hapnim.[6] After all of the information is verified, the child will be issued a Mispar Zehut (Identity Number) and an Israeli passport. If the child is 16 years or older, he or she will also receive a Teudat Zehut (National ID).[6] It is important to note that in Israel there is no separation of religion and state.[6] If the mother is not Jewish by Orthodox standards then the child can not be registered as Jewish, nor can the child be married to a Jewish person inside of Israel without first undergoing an Orthodox conversion to Judaism.[6] By the same token, a child born to a mother considered Jewish by Orthodox standards is automatically also registered as Jewish.[6]

Cancellation of citizenship[edit]

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.

With regard to citizenship being obtained on the basis of false information, the Interior Minister may cancel the Israeli citizenship of anyone who obtained it through such means within three years of them having acquired it. If the person had acquired Israeli citizenship more than three years prior to the discovery of it having been obtained with false information, the Interior Ministry must first obtain permission from an administrative court to cancel it.[7]

A 2008 amendment to the Nationality Law of 1952 designated nine countries as enemy states: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, as well as the Gaza Strip.

Dual citizenship[edit]

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. He 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). He 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.[8]

Renunciation of Israeli citizenship[edit]

Israeli citizens can apply to renounce Israeli citizenship, but a renunciation is not effective until approved by the Minister of the Interior or his delegate, which they can reject for any reason, such as the applicant’s military status.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nationality Law, 5712-1952, amended from time to time.
  2. ^ "Acquisition of Israeli Nationality". 2001-08-20. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  3. ^ באינטרנט, אוריון - שיווק. "Acquiring or canceling Israeli citizenship". Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  4. ^ "Israel upholds citizenship bar for Palestinian spouses". BBC News. 12 January 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f
  7. ^ "Israel: Amendment Authorizing Revocation of Israeli Nationality Passed - Global Legal Monitor". 23 March 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  8. ^ "Bet Din and Judges". Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  9. ^ Renouncing Israeli citizenship

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