Nativ was established in 1952 in order to replace the Aliya Bet Institute, a secret underground organization, which assisted Jews to immigrate illegally before the establishment of the State of Israel. 

Nativ's objective was to maintain contact between Israel and the Jewish community in Eastern Europe – "The East" –  in general, and the Jews of the Soviet Union, specifically, who were cut off from "The West" behind the "Iron Curtain" – characterized by Totalitarian Communism, which punished religious, and particularly Jewish practices. 

From its inception, Nativ was one of the branches of Israeli Intelligence, along with the Mossad, Shabak and Israel Defense Intelligence and reported directly to the Prime Minister's office. Until 1990, Nativ functioned as a clandestine operation, until the fall of the Soviet Union, when its activities emerged and began operating in the open.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Nativ continued to operate and was responsible in large part for the major wave of immigration to Israel of some 1 million Russians in the 1990s. Today, Native is an independent unit in the Prime Minister's office and it has representatives have a small presence in Russia and the CIS states.

When the IICC was established and The National Memorial for the Fallen of the Intelligence Community was established, Nativ was a partner in its creation. Its casualties are commemorated at the memorial site and its veterans are members of the IICC, although the organization's activities are no longer secretive in nature.