(photo credit: www.goisrael.com)
In the summer of 2000, Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky and their family performed the
ultimate Zionist act and made aliya from the US.
Two years later their
son Menachem Binyamin was born at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, located in a part
of Jerusalem inside the Green Line.
Congress had just passed a law with a
provision titled “United States Policy With Respect to Jerusalem as the Capital
of Israel” that says that a US citizen born in Jerusalem may request his or her
birthplace to be listed as Israel.
Until then, amazingly, the uncontested
official US policy, as dictated by the State Department, had been that only
“Jerusalem” could be listed in a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and in
passports for US citizens born in the city.
Since the 1947 UN Partition
Resolution placed Jerusalem under international control, consecutive US
presidents – both Democratic and Republican – have declined to take a position
on the status of the city. The parts of Jerusalem that fell under Israeli
control in the wake of the War of Independence and the drawing of the 1949
Armistice Lines were never recognized by the US as part of Israeli sovereignty.
(The same is true about the parts of Jerusalem that came under Israeli control
as a result of the Six Day War.) Now, after Congress acted, the Zivotofskys
hoped that Menachem, their only child born in Israel, could have that fact
reflected proudly on his passport.
But it was not to be.
more than a decade of legal struggles, a US federal appeals court ruled this
week that Congress’s provision was unconstitutional. Menachem and about 50,000
other American citizens born in Jerusalem are in the same situation.
US, Israel’s best and most important ally, stubbornly insists on maintaining an
anachronistic foreign policy that relates to Israel as if the year were 1947.
That policy must change.
While the status of territories that fell into
Israel’s hands during the Six Day War remains “disputed” pending a final peace
agreement with the Palestinians, there is a broad consensus that the 1949
Armistice Line, or Green Line, includes integral parts of Israel that will
remain a part of the Jewish state in any agreement with
Ostensibly, the State Department’s position on Jerusalem – as
presented to the US federal appeals court – is that the “reversal of US policy”
could “provoke uproar throughout the Arab and Muslim world and seriously damage
But caving in to extremists in the Arab and Muslim world
only encourages ever-more extremist behavior by proving that intimidation
Caving in to the extremists also strengthens the Palestinian
narrative that views Israel as the aggressor in the War of Independence. In
reality, what sparked the fighting that led to Israel’s control over western
Jerusalem was a radicalized Palestinian leadership – backed by bellicose Arab
nations – who rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan that would have given them a
Palestinian state. Instead, the Palestinians made the historic mistake of
attempting to snuff out the fledgling Jewish state at birth. Thankfully, they
failed. But they refuse to face the consequences of their acts of violence. So
does the US.
The US position is also disconnected from the realities on
the ground. An aggressive reporter occasionally reveals how untenable the
position is by pushing White House officials to say which city the US considers
to be Israel’s capital. When that happened last summer, White House Press
Secretary Jay Carney simply repeated again and again, “Our policy has not
changed.” A similar standoff occurred in March 2012 when State Department
spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to state that Jerusalem was a part of
Just walking around Jerusalem, a city that has flourished and
grown beyond recognition for both Jews and Arabs during the years it has been
under Israel’s control, one is struck by the absurdity of the US’s
The time has come for President Barack Obama to amend America’s
policy. Whatever the final borders with a future Palestinian state, Jerusalem
will remain Israel’s capital. US policy should recognize this, as well as the
plain fact that Jerusalem is the most important and holiest city for
A historic injustice will be righted when young Menachem Zivotofsky
and tens of thousands of others will be able to proudly display their
Israeliness in a passport issued by a country that has done more than any other
to ensure Israel’s security and prosperity.