US to let citizens born in Jerusalem list Israel on their passports — report

Announcement on change of decades-old policy, which sought to avoid taking position on final status issue of conflict, expected less than week before presidential election

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a hat in the colors of the American flag at a rally for his re-election, at a promenade overlooking Jerusalem, October 27, 2020. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a hat in the colors of the American flag at a rally for his re-election, at a promenade overlooking Jerusalem, October 27, 2020. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo)

NEW YORK — The Trump administration is expected to announce that it will allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their country of birth on their passports, according to a Wednesday report.

An unnamed US official told Politico that the policy change could be announced as soon as Thursday. The State Department declined a request for comment.

Current US policy allows American citizens born in Jerusalem to identify only the city as their birthplace in their passports, unless they were born before Israel’s creation in 1948. The State Department policy, held up by a 2015 Supreme Court case, is designed to avoid having Washington take a position on the final status of Jerusalem, the eastern part of which Palestinians claim as their future capital.

That policy has remained in place even after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, despite growing pressure from pro-Israel lawmakers and groups in the US to allow Israel on the passports. However, the State Department said at the time that it would not revise the position.

The policy change only affects the words written on the passport. Israelis born in Jerusalem are already recognized as being from Israel by US agencies.

The new policy will allow Jerusalem-born US passport holders to choose whether they want Israel to be included as their country of birth, Politico said. No country option will be given to those who would like their country of birth to be documented as Palestine, though those born in Jerusalem before 1948 may have “Jerusalem, Palestine” on their passports.

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

The reported decision comes amid a flurry of gestures and diplomatic activity seemingly aimed at shoring up pro-Israel Jewish and Evangelical Republican voters, with days to go before the November 3 presidential election.

The report of the policy change came just hours after Israel and the US signed an agreement extending their scientific cooperation, a move viewed by some as a first step toward American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

The Trump administration has also sought to expand the list of Arab and Muslim-majority countries to normalize relations with Israel in the final months of its first term. On Friday, Sudan agreed to become the third country to do so in recent months, following the lead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain after weeks of pressure from Washington, which conditioned removing Khartoum from its blacklist of state terror sponsors on Sudan making peace with the Jewish state.

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