US Supreme Court skeptical in Israel passport case

Parents of 9-year-old born in J'lem want Israel listed as birthplace on passport; Obama administration: Only president can set foreign policy.

November 8, 2011 01:58
1 minute read.
US Supreme Court

US Supreme Court 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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WASHINGTON - US Supreme Court justices on Monday seemed to back the Obama administration's position that only the US president can recognize foreign states, as they heard the case of a boy born in Jerusalem to American parents who want his passport to list Israel as his birthplace.

The parents of 9-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky argued that the move should be made under a 2002 law - passed weeks before Menachem was born - that included a provision allowing Israel to be listed as the place of birth on the passport of any American citizen born in Jerusalem.

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At stake in the diplomatically sensitive case is whether the US executive branch has exclusive control over dealings with foreign nations, or whether Congress and the courts also have a say.

Few states accept the status of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Most countries, including the United States, maintain their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, captured in 1967, as capital of the state they aim to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alongside Israel.

Zivotofsky was born on Oct. 17, 2002, in a hospital in west Jerusalem. The US State Department, applying long-standing US policy, insisted his birth certificate show Jerusalem - with no country specified - as the place of birth, not Israel as his mother requested.

Nathan Lewin, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney arguing on behalf of the boy and his parents, who attended the arguments, said the US Congress properly exercised its power over passports and it can control a passport's contents.

Former US president George W. Bush signed the law, but refused to follow it on the grounds it infringed on the president's power to formulate foreign policy. The Obama administration agreed.

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