Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has irritated some Americans by injecting himself into our debate over the Iran deal, though many Republicans have treated Netanyahu with more respect than the president.
Well, Netanyahu may have more standing than we thought. He has been an American citizen twice, and has twice renounced his citizenship, according to his former aide, Michael Oren.
Oren makes the statement in his new book, Ally, when he relates that he had to renounce his own citizenship to become Israeli ambassador to the U.S. in 2009 under Netanyahu:
By federal law, any American who officially served a foreign country had to renounce her or his U.S. citizenship. “It’s no fun, but you’ll live–I did,” Ron Dermer, a former American who acted as Israel’s economic attache in Washington, consoled me. Netanyahu, who lived for years in the United States, also pooh-poohed the process, assuring me that he had undergone it twice–the first time as a commando in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], and then, in America, as deputy chief of mission.
Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949…. His high school years were spent in the U.S., where his father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, was conducting research. Returning to Israel in 1967, Mr. Netanyahu enlisted in the IDF and served in the elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal….
1972-1977… In the 1970s he returned to the U.S. to study at MIT. Between 1976 and 1982 Mr. Netanyahu worked in the private sector, first with the Boston Consulting Group, an international business consultancy…
In 1982, Mr. Netanyahu was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC.
So maybe Netanyahu resumed his American citizenship in the 1970s to work in the investment banking business? This 1988 lawsuit by an American-Israeli suggests that the State Department does accept an individual’s revocation of the renunciation of citizenship. So what was restored once to Netanyahu can be restored again, huh? “Maybe he will run for president!” Scott McConnell said to me.
In 1996, Neve Gordon expressed the view that Netanyahu was still an American citizen, in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
[In the 1970s] He held dual citizenship, which enabled him to travel freely between both countries, study in the U.S., receive federal loans to cover his education costs at MIT and work legally. Like every U.S. citizen, Netanyahu has a social security number, a credit account, and numerous other files in a variety of government offices….
Netanyahu claims that in 1982 he gave up his U.S. citizenship, yet he is unwilling to grant the press access to his file located in the U.S. Embassy in Tel-Aviv—the file which holds information regarding his citizenship. Interestingly, the status of his files in the U.S. has not changed, so according to U.S. law Netanyahu remains a U.S. citizen.
At US News, Alvin Felzenberg urged Netanyahu to run for president a couple of years ago.
P.S. Netanyahu shouldn’t let being born in Tel Aviv stop him. Ted Cruz was born in Canada.
Thanks to Alex Kane.