The US Supreme Court is expected on Monday to hear oral arguments on whether Americans born in Jerusalem can have “Israel” written as their place of birth on their passports. The case, Zivotofsky v. Kerry , has been winding through the American courts for years, with major setbacks followed by unexpected decisions putting the case back on track.
US policy, under both Republican and Democratic presidents since the founding of the State of Israel, has been that passports of Americans born in Jerusalem will read merely Jerusalem as place of birth, not Israel. The basis of the policy has been to avoid taking sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict over the status of the city, despite the state’s annexation of Jerusalem decades ago.
But in 2002, Congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which require the US government to place “Jerusalem, Israel” as the place of birth for Jerusalem- born US citizens.
President George W. Bush ignored Congress, claiming it had interfered with his powers to direct foreign policy on the issue of if, or when, to recognize foreign countries’ claims to land, and President Barack Obama has followed suit.
The parents of Menachem Zivotofsky, born in 2002, sued, and along with a coalition of supporters have pushed the case through the courts to try to force the president to comply with the law.
In 2011, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia declined to give a position on the dispute, saying that it had to defer to the executive branch since the issue involved foreign policy, which US courts steer clear from.