Rabbi Dov Lipman, who was elected to the Knesset Tuesday in the number 17 slot on Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid list, will relinquish his U.S. citizenship when he takes office.
Lipman, who immigrated to Israel from Silver Spring Maryland eight years ago, is the third dual citizen to serve in the Knesset and will be the first to relinquish his citizenship voluntarily.
“I am going to be relinquishing my U.S. citizenship with a very heavy heart,” he said. “One side of my family came to America to escape pogroms in Russia, and the other survived the Holocaust. America provided us with a safe haven in which to rebuild our family. My father was someone who was able to become a federal judge while being a religious Jew. It’s painful, but I’ve been told it’s the law. I do so with a heavy heart and of course, there is also the flip side - knowing I’ll be pure Israeli.”
Lipman is not alone. Other prominent Israeli dual citizens who have relinquished their U.S. citizenship in recent years when taking high office (but not in the Knesset) include recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez, governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer and Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.
The issue of retaining U.S. citizenship after election to the Knesset has been the subject of much legal wrangling in the past, as the laws governing it clearly leave a great deal of room for discretion by the American government.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
"In a 1982 case involving a U.S. citizen who served in the Knesset, the Board of Appellate Review reversed a consular decision that expatriated Marcia Freedman, a native of New Jersey residing in Israel who won a parliamentary seat as a member of a feminist party in 1973."
"In that case, the board held that Freedman's election was unexpected, that she was interested primarily in women's rights and that she was consistently identified as an American--all circumstances that "narrowly overcome the presumption of intent to abandon allegiance to the United States."
In 1984, when the controversial right-wing rabbi Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset, he attempted to retain his U.S. citizenship by changing his swearing-in ceremony, pledging allegiance to the Bible instead of the state. However, he was stripped of his citizenship against his will, and attempts to reverse the decision through the courts failed.
But the main reason Lipman feels the need to relinquish citizenship relates to Israeli law. The country's Basic Law regarding the Knesset states:
"If a Knesset member holds an additional, non-Israeli citizenship, and the laws of the country whose citizenship he holds permit him to be released from such citizenship, he shall not declare allegiance until after he has done everything required on his part to be released from such citizenship, and he shall not enjoy the rights of a Knesset member until he makes his declaration."