It took 18 years, but reality finally overcame politics. And now, the U.S. passport of Menachem Zivotofsky shows the unremarkable but much litigated truth that he is a U.S. citizen, born in Jerusalem, Israel.
At issue in the Zivotofsky case was whether the law passed by Congress in 2002 saying that American citizens born in Jerusalem may have “Israel” stamped on their passports was a usurpation of the president’s right to make foreign policy.
Last week, the Trump administration answered that question in the negative, rendering the longstanding challenges in Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State moot. And almost immediately thereafter, Zivotofsky, born in Jerusalem to U.S. citizens just three weeks after Congress passed the law, received his passport from U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The passport identifies Zivotofsky’s birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel.”
Until the Trump administration reversed the policy, both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations rejected the law, saying such decisions of foreign policy were up to the executive branch. And since the status of Jerusalem was “disputed,” they decided that U.S. passports should not identify Jerusalem as being part of Israel — and should only reflect that the holder’s birthplace is “Jerusalem.”
The Zivotofsky family took the government to court. In 2015, the Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration. As noted by Washington attorney Nathan Lewin, who along with his daughter, Alyza Lewin, have represented Zivotofsky for close to two decades, the result of that litigation is ironic: “The Supreme Court’s resolution of our lawsuit seemed initially like a defeat, but it turned, with President Trump’s recognition decisions, into a victory. The Court decision established conclusively that the president’s recognition decision is constitutionally immune from reversal by either of the other two branches of government.”
This was another instance of Trump’s orthodoxy-smashing activity with regard to the U.S. relationship with Israel — having moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, helped to orchestrate the growing number of Arab nations signing on to the Abraham Accords, and now formally recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel on U.S. passports. Irrespective of one’s view in this week’s presidential election, the “Jerusalem is part of Israel” decision should be applauded by Israel supporters as another consequential move that acknowledges the obvious after years of political obfuscation.
B’hatzlachah, Menachem Zivotofsky. Congratulations on finally receiving a U.S. passport that accurately states where you were born. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. And nothing about that designation prejudges the final status of Jerusalem that will be negotiated by serious, realistic and forward-looking Israelis and Palestinians who join together in efforts to reach agreement on a lasting two-state solution.