How to apply for Israeli citizenship

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Jan Schneider

To person

Dr. Jan Schneider heads the research department at the Expert Council of German Foundations for Integration and Migration (SVR). He is a Research Fellow at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) and a member of the editorial team of the "Migration and Population" newsletter.

Citizenship law is predominantly designed as jus sanguinis, i.e. it follows ethno-national or -religious principles. Jews who carry out their aliyah to Israel, d. H. immigrants usually automatically become Israeli citizens.

In addition, Israeli citizenship was also available to non-Jewish (Arab) residents who were not expelled after 1948 or who did not leave the country or who returned there until 1952. Thus, a minority of around 1.4 million Arabs of Muslim, Christian and Druze faith now live as citizens in Israel. Although they have the same individual rights, they are de facto disadvantaged in many ways.

In principle, Israeli law also provides for the naturalization of non-Jewish foreigners, but this option is linked to numerous requirements. In addition, it is at the discretion of the Ministry of the Interior and has so far played a subordinate role. With a few exceptions, recent Israeli politics tends in the opposite direction: In July 2003, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) passed a law that prohibits the granting of residence permits or Israeli citizenship to Palestinians from the occupied territories, even if they immigrate should take place within the framework of family reunification. Under the Israeli Citizenship and Entry Act, Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens cannot obtain residency status or obtain Israeli citizenship. The law, in the form of an ordinance to be renewed annually by parliamentary resolution, is officially justified with Israel's security interests.

The law runs counter to the international practice of family reunification as well as the civil rights standards of Western democracies, and corresponding lawsuits have sparked criticism from the Supreme Court. However, this approved it in a tight majority decision with restrictive conditions to the legislature. In 2005 and 2007, minor changes were made: on the one hand, the Ministry of the Interior can now allow women over 25 and men over 35 as well as children under 14 to stay for a limited period in individual cases, which means a slight relaxation. On the other hand, the scope of the law has been extended to the effect that family members from "hostile states" (Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon are mentioned) are now excluded from residence and naturalization rights. The current regulation of the law, against which a new appeal has been made to the Supreme Court, is valid until July 31, 2008.

Ethnic democracy

Israel continues to be rightly regarded as the only democratic state in the Middle East. But its democracy is subject to certain restrictions, especially in the area of ​​citizenship. Critics point out that the citizenship and immigration law deprives the Arab minority of some of their civil liberties and is aimed solely at keeping the number of Palestinians with permanent residence rights or Israeli citizenship low. It is an expression of a form of rule that does not regard equality and individual freedom as universal rights for all groups and minorities in the sense of liberal democracies, but rather prefers the Jewish majority from an ethnic-religious point of view - a non-democratic "ethnocracy". In contrast, the classic political science model of Israel as an "ethnic democracy" assumes that the form of government and political processes function on the basis of the same rights and principles for all citizens and that these basic rights are guaranteed. However, the majority ethnic group exercises state control of institutions while observing democratic rules. According to this, "ethnic democracy" is a democracy with compromises; dominance manifests itself through democratic majority decisions. [1]

The Palestinian citizens of Israel find this discriminatory. Despite clear disadvantages in terms of education, income and housing, the majority are by no means dissatisfied with regard to their personal, especially economic, educational and professional development opportunities in the country. However, the legal situation is largely perceived as unacceptable. More than 90% of Arab Israelis recognize Israel's right to exist. A majority, however, would like to be transformed into a consensus democracy - a binational political community in which no population group is favored by the state. [2]