Attorneys in Jerusalem passport case ask Trump to apply new US policy
Posted on December 6, 2017 by Rafael Medoff/JNS.org and filed under Israel,
News, U.S. and tagged Main.
By Rafael Medoff/JNS
WASHINGTON—The attorneys in the landmark Jerusalem passport lawsuit are
calling on President Donald Trump to instruct the State Department to list
“Israel” as the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem.
Attorneys Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin represented Jerusalem-born
Menachem Zivotofsky, whose parents first sued the State Department in 2003,
after it wrote “Jerusalem” rather than “Israel” on his passport as his place
of birth. In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that the president has
exclusive power to decide which country to recognize as sovereign in a given
In the wake of President Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s
capital, the Lewins hope the previous U.S. policy will be reversed.
“Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky and his parents view the president’s
announcement today as the formal recognition by the United States that
Jerusalem, being the capital of Israel, is necessarily in Israel as surely
as Tel Aviv and Haifa are in Israel,” the Lewins said in an exclusive
statement to JNS.
“We will be requesting promptly that, in light of the president’s statement
today, Menachem Zivotofsky be issued a United States passport designating
his place of birth as ‘Israel,’” the statement continued. “The president’s
formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel should also entitle
every United States citizen born in Jerusalem to have his or her United
States passport automatically show ‘Israel’ as his or her place of birth.”
Although the president announced U.S. recognition of Jerusalem, he did not
immediately take any steps to implement it, such as relocating the American
embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The passport question thus could emerge
as the key test of how the president’s declaration will be implemented.
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, a faculty member at Northwestern University School
of Law, told JNS he is optimistic that Trump’s announcement “will translate,
shortly, into a change in passport policy.” He said the president’s
statement is substantially different than the language in the 1995 Jerusalem
Embassy Act, which referred to the city as Israel’s capital.
“The 1995 recognition was by Congress, but under the Constitution only the
president has authority to formally recognizes international borders, so
this is decisive, binding and historic,” Kontorovich said.
Yet regarding the issue of borders, Trump said Dec. 6 in his announcement of
America’s policy change on Jerusalem, “We are not taking a position of any
final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli
sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those
questions are up to the parties involved.”
Trump did not specify whether his recognition of Jerusalem encompasses all
of the city, including the Old City, where the Western Wall and Temple Mount
are situated. But in Kontorovich’s view, the president’s announcement “does
implicitly include all of Jerusalem, as all U.S. diplomatic references to
‘Jerusalem’ refer to the whole city.” The law professor pointed to internal
State Department regulations such as its Foreign Affairs Manual, in which
“Jerusalem” means the “current municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Weekly Standard this
week that he had urged Trump to use the phrase “undivided Jerusalem” in his
announcement. The president did not utilize that term.