US appeals court: Americans born in Jerusalem not from ‘Israel’

DC bench upholds decision to leave country field blank for US citizens born in the capital

Illustrative picture of a US passport (photo credit: PD US Army, by BotMultichillT, Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative picture of a US passport (photo credit: PD US Army, by BotMultichillT, Wikimedia Commons)

A federal court upheld the State Department’s refusal to list “Israel” as the country of birth for Americans born in Jerusalem.

The 42-page decision released Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia delved deeply into constitutional law in finding that Congress, in passing a 2002 law mandating the listing of “Israel” should Americans born in Jerusalem request it, impinged on the executive branch’s foreign policy prerogative.

Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have refused to implement the law, saying it violates longstanding policy that does not recognize any nation’s sovereignty in the city and leaves its status to be decided in peace talks..

The request to list Israel “runs headlong into a carefully calibrated and longstanding Executive branch policy of neutrality toward Jerusalem,” the court ruled.

The case was brought on behalf of Menachem Zivotofsky, 11, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002 shortly after the law was passed.

In 2009, the appeals court ruled that the judiciary had no standing in the case, but the Supreme Court forced it to reconsider last year. Arguments were heard in March.

Lawyers for Zivotofsky said they would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, as they did following the 2009 ruling.

“We hope that before Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky’s bar mitzvah, he will be able to bear a passport that recognizes his birthplace as ‘Israel’,” attorneys Nathan and Alyza Lewin said in a statement.

The statement called the court decision “misguided,” and noted, “Federal government agencies have recognized in official documents and statements to the media that Jerusalem is in Israel. The State Department’s passport policy remains an isolated holdout, denying what is universally acknowledged, to the detriment of a right that a duly enacted law gives to American citizens.”

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