Six newly elected Knesset members have been asked to renounce their foreign citizenships before taking the oath of office as Knesset members.
They are Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett, Likud’s Moshe Feiglin, Labor’s Michal Biran and Miki Rosenthal, and Yesh Atid’s Karine Elharar and Dov Lipman.
Knesset Secretary-General Yardena Meller-Horovitz on Friday telephoned the six new Knesset members and explained that according to the Basic Law: Knesset, an MK with foreign citizenship is required to renounce it. All six told her they had already begun the process.
Feiglin will renounce his Australian citizenship; Bennett, a son of American immigrants, and Lipman, an immigrant from the U.S., will renounce their American citizenship; and Elharar will give up her French passport. Rosenthal has German citizenship and Biran Lithuanian citizenship.
Dual citizenship is very common in Israel, as many Israelis are immigrants themselves or descended from immigrants. A 2008 survey by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center found that 59 percent of Israelis had approached or planned to approach a foreign embassy to obtain citizenship. This does not include the close to 1 million Israelis who live abroad or those Israelis who received foreign citizenship by birth or other default mechanism.
The Knesset recently issued a statement saying that every MK who proves that he or she has started the process of renouncing their foreign citizenship will be eligible to recite the oath of office, which involves a declaration of allegiance to Israel and its laws.
In the words of the Basic Law: Knesset, "Should an MK possess an additional citizenship and the laws of that country permit his or her release from that citizenship, he will not take the oath of office until after he has taken every possible step to release himself from it and will not enjoy the rights of a Knesset member before taking the oath."
Other dual citizens who renounced their foreign citizenship to assume a high government office in Israel include Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez, who was born in the U.S. to Israeli parents and gave up her citizenship in 2012, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, who gave up his foreign passports in 2005 and Michael Oren, who grew up in New Jersey and renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2009 to become Israeli ambassador to the U.S.