US President Donald Trump’s administration plans to reverse a long-standing US policy that passports of citizens born in Jerusalem may not say they were born in Israel.
The change in policy is expected to take place in the coming days, less than a week before the US election, and soon after US Ambassador David Friedman said “geographic restrictions [in the agreements] no longer comport with our foreign policy,” in reference to agreements between the US and Israel that were limited to the latter’s pre-1967 territory.
The State Department’s current, official policy as listed on its website “recognizes that Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are territories whose final status must be determined by negotiations.” As such, anyone who was born in Jerusalem’s municipal borders after Israel’s establishment is listed as being born in Jerusalem. The policy explicitly says not to write that the person was born in Israel.
Under the new policy, individuals will be able to choose whether to have “Jerusalem, Israel” or just “Jerusalem” on their passports.
The State Department declined to comment on the matter.
Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he would not reverse that policy.
Since then, Friedman has pushed for the passport policy to be changed to be consistent with US recognition of Jerusalem.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled on the case of the Zivotofsky family, which sued the State Department to allow for “Israel” to be written on son Menachem’s passport after he was born in Jerusalem. The family argued that Congress passed a law in 1995 recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and as such, it should be recognized on US passports.
The court determined that the president has the executive power to recognize foreign nations and, therefore, to determine what is written on US passports.
“Recognition is a matter on which the nation must speak with one voice,” justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “That voice is the president’s.”
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who holds the municipality’s international portfolio, said: “We are happy that today the US has kept its promise to Israel and completed the process of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“American citizens born in our capital city will finally be able to have Israel written as their country of birth. It is long overdue, and we are grateful to President Trump and Ambassador Friedman for their leadership on this,” Hassan-Nahoum stated.