Supreme Court to weigh `Israel' on U.S. passports

May 5, 2011

JERUSALEM (RNS) The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to tackle the question
of whether American passports issued to children born in Jerusalem
should include the word "Israel."

Until now, passports issued in this disputed city have designated
the children's birthplace as Jerusalem, but not Israel.

American officials have long maintained that replacing Israel with
Jerusalem would constitute recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the
city, which Israelis and Palestinians both claim as their capital.

The U.S. maintains that the future of Jerusalem, which was
designated as an international city by the United Nations in 1947, must
be decided in negotiations.

The case before the Supreme Court was filed by the American-born
parents of Menachem Zivotofsky, an American Israeli born in 2002. Their
petition was denied by lower courts.

Although Congress passed a law in 2002 that permits consular
officials to list Israel as a birthplace, then-President George W. Bush
reserved the right not to enforce the law on the grounds that it could
prejudice the outcome of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Nathan Lewin, the family's lawyer, told the JTA news agency that
they are gratified that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear their case.

"Once the State Department's passport practices and policy are
closely examined," he said, "the court will see that the argument that
Congress has interfered with the president's constitutional authority is
unjustified, and that the State Department's policy simply discriminates
against American citizens who are proud to have been born in Israel,"
Lewin said.