Minister urges PM to ask for ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ to be listed on US passports
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Minister urges PM to ask for ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ to be listed on US passports

Aryeh Deri sends Netanyahu a letter saying US recognition of capital should be expressed on official documents

Illustrative: Man holding a US passport. (Shutterstock)
Illustrative: Man holding a US passport. (Shutterstock)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work with US President Donald Trump’s administration to recognize the birthplace of Jerusalem-born Americans as “Jerusalem, Israel” on US passports, as well as adding the phrase to official maps and other documents.

Deri penned a letter to Netanyahu imploring him to seek a change in the longstanding US policy, hours after the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem.

“It’s important that the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on its official documents,” the minister tweeted.

Current US policy is that American citizens born in Jerusalem identify only the city as their birthplace in their passports, unless they were born before Israel’s creation in 1948. In those cases, they can list “Palestine” as their birthplace. Some pro-Israel groups had hoped Trump’s recognition of the capital in December would herald a change in the longstanding US policy barring American citizens born in Jerusalem from recording “Israel” as their place of birth. But the State Department said in December it would not revise the policy, which had been upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri during a plenum session in the Knesset, January 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“I’d like to congratulate you and the State of Israel for the historic step of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which was completed today with much excitement,” Deri wrote in his letter to Netanyahu.

“To complete the important and historic step, there is much significance for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to also be expressed on official US documents,” he added.

“The move and the recognition that accompanied it seem to necessitate this change of policy. I request that you work on that with the US government in any way you find appropriate to bring this affair to its worthy solution,” Deri concluded.

The State Department told The Associated Press in December that it does not plan to change several longstanding policies regarding Jerusalem that were carefully crafted to avoid offending Israel or the Palestinians.

“At this time, there are no changes to our current practices regarding place of birth on Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and US Passports,” the department said.

The Israeli flag flutters in front of the Old City of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock on December 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas)

The State Department said officials were looking at ways to identify Jerusalem as the capital, such as commonly used bold or underlined lettering or a star notation, on official maps, but said they will not be redrawn.

“The president is taking a specific step in affirming that the United States believes that Jerusalem has and will continue to serve as Israel’s capital,” the department told the AP at the time. “The US is not backing off efforts toward encouraging the parties to resolve their differences over final status issues in a comprehensive peace agreement. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”

It remains unclear whether the State Department or other federal agencies will alter their policy of not identifying Jerusalem within Israel in documents such as policy papers, travel announcements, or transcripts of official events.

Previous administrations often struggled with the studied neutrality over the city, routinely making embarrassing corrections to documents identifying the city as “Jerusalem, Israel.”

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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