US citizens born in Jerusalem may have ‘Israel’ on their passports

Under the new policy, individuals will be able to choose whether to have “Jerusalem, Israel” or just “Jerusalem” on their passports.

View of the construction site of 'Mechir Lamishtaken' at Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem on January 28, 2019. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
View of the construction site of 'Mechir Lamishtaken' at Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem on January 28, 2019.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday a reversal of a long-standing US policy that passports of citizens born in Jerusalem may not say they were born in Israel.
“Consistent with President [Donald Trump]’s policy, I am happy to announce US citizens born in Jerusalem can now elect to list their place of birth as either ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Israel’ on their passports,” Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.
According to the State Department, those US citizens born in Jerusalem who do not specify their place of birth on applications for consular services as “Israel” will continue to be issued documents that indicate their place of birth as Jerusalem. “Other guidance on listing of a place of birth in Israel, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and the West Bank remains unchanged,” the statement reads.
The change in policy came less than a week before the US election, and soon after US Ambassador David Friedman said “geographic restrictions [in the agreements] no longer comport with our foreign policy,” in reference to agreements between the US and Israel that were limited to the latter’s pre-1967 territory.
The State Department’s former policy that was listed on its website “recognizes that Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are territories whose final status must be determined by negotiations.” As such, anyone who was born in Jerusalem’s municipal borders after Israel’s establishment is listed as being born in Jerusalem. The policy explicitly says not to write that the person was born in Israel.
Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he would not reverse that policy. Since then, Friedman has pushed for the passport policy to be changed to be consistent with US recognition of Jerusalem.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled on the case of the Zivotofsky family, which sued the State Department to allow for “Israel” to be written on their son, Menachem’s, passport after he was born in Jerusalem. The family argued that Congress passed a law in 1995 recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and as such, it should be recognized on US passports.
The court determined that the president has the executive power to recognize foreign nations and, therefore, to determine what is written on US passports. “Recognition is a matter on which the nation must speak with one voice,” justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “That voice is the president’s.”
Menachem Zivotofsky, who turned 18 this month, said that he is “honored to be the representative of the many American citizens born in Jerusalem who want official documents [to] reflect that they were born in Israel.”
Aliza Lewis, the lawyer who argued the Zivotofsky's case before the Supreme Court said that “until today, US passport policy favored those who seek Israel’s demise. It permitted individuals who wish to erase any mention of the Jewish homeland from their US passport to do so, while denying citizens born in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, the ability to list their country of birth as their place of birth. We are grateful to [US] Ambassador [to Israel] David Friedman for his extraordinary efforts to correct this inequity. And we thank President Trump for having the courage formally to recognize that Jerusalem is indeed in Israel.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) praised the move. “We applaud the Trump administration’s action to allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birthplace on passports,” AIPAC tweeted. “This move implements bipartisan legislation, backed by AIPAC, calling for the State Department to change its passport policy on Jerusalem.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) said that “President Trump is once again coming through for American Jews,” and that this is “just one more reason the American Jewish community should be casting their votes for President Trump.”