Special Travel Circumstances in Israel

Arrest Notification: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained. If you are arrested in Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza, you should use whatever means of communication available to alert the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem of your situation.

Israeli Arrests: U.S. citizens arrested in Israel are entitled to legal representation provided by the Israeli government. In some cases, there have been significant delays between the time of arrest and the time when the INP notifies the U.S. embassy or consulate general of an arrest of a U.S. citizen and grants consular access. This is particularly true in the arrest of dual nationals when the police are unaware of the detainee's U.S. citizenship. The notification may be expedited if the arrested U.S. citizen shows a U.S. passport to the police and asks the police or prison authority to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.

U.S. citizens arrested in Israel for security offenses and U.S. citizens arrested by Israeli authorities in the West Bank or Gaza for criminal or security offenses may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. The U.S. Consulate General and the U.S. Embassy sometimes are only notified of such arrests after lengthy delays. Even after notification, consular access to the arrested individual may be delayed. Under local law, individuals may be detained for up to six months without charges. Youths over the age of 14 have been detained and tried as adults. On occasion, arrestees have been subject to mistreatment during interrogation and pressured to sign statements.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Arrests: U.S. citizens arrested by PA security forces in the West Bank for crimes are entitled to legal representation. PA security forces normally notify the Consulate General of non-security-related arrests for criminal offenses, but not always in a timely manner. Consular access is normally granted within four days. This procedure may be expedited if the arrested U.S. citizen shows a U.S. passport to the police or asks the police to contact the U.S. Consulate General.

Palestinian-Americans living in the West Bank may be detained by the IDF. In such instances, the Government of Israel may not recognize the detainee's U.S. citizenship and will instead consider him or her a Palestinian. In such cases the U.S. Consulate General may not be notified.

Dual Palestinian-American citizens arrested by PA security forces in the West Bank for security offenses may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. In addition, they may be held in custody for protracted periods without formal charges or before being brought before a judge for an arrest extension. The PA often does not notify the U.S. Consulate General of such arrests in a timely manner, and consular access to arrestees is occasionally delayed or denied. Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, its Executive Forces (EF) have dominated security matters there. The U.S. government has no contact with the EF.

Court Jurisdiction: Civil courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including nonresidents, from leaving the country until debts or other legal claims against them are resolved. Israel's religious courts exercise jurisdiction over all citizens and residents of Israel in cases of marriage, divorce, child custody, and child support. In some cases, U.S. citizens who entered Israel as tourists have become defendants in divorce or custody cases filed by their spouses in Israeli religious courts. These U.S. citizens have been detained in Israel for prolonged periods while the Israeli courts consider whether the individuals have sufficient ties to Israel to establish jurisdiction. Such visitors should be aware that they might be subject to involuntary and prolonged stays in Israel if a case is filed against them in a religious court, even if their marriage took place in the United States and regardless of whether their spouse is present in Israel.

Purchases of Property: U.S. citizens who buy or lease property in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza may find their ownership challenged by people earlier displaced from those lands. Prospective property buyers should always seek legal advice before buying in these areas. The possible establishment of a Palestinian state may have legal consequences for property owners in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.


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2019 edition