The US Supreme Court has shot down a portion of a federal statute that permitted American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as a place of birth on their passport.
The ruling speaks to the divisive nature of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. US policy for decades has stated that the status of Jerusalem will be established at the conclusion of peace talks between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority, talks which have hit a major stonewall.
Israel, of course, maintains that Jerusalem is indeed its capital. The statute allowing US citizens born in the city to claim Israel as place of birth was seen as a way to appease the tenuous political situation.
“The nations in the region, and frankly people around the world and governments around the world scrutinize every word that comes out of the United States Government and every action that the United States Government takes in order to see whether we can continue to be trusted as an honest broker who could stand apart from this conflict and help bring it to resolution,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli said in court.
“[Congress can’t use its authority to regulate passports] to command the Executive branch to issue diplomatic communication that contradicts the government’s official position on recognition,” he added.
“History suggests that everything is a big deal with respect to the status of Jerusalem. And right now, Jerusalem is a tinderbox because of issues about the status of and access to a particular holy site there,” Justice Elena Kagan said, seeming to side with the State Department.
“The fact that the State Department doesn’t like the fact that it makes the Palestinians angry is irrelevant,” Justice Antonin Scalia added.
The focus of the case was Menachem Zivotofsky, now 12, whose parents sought the passport listing not long after he was born.