US Ready to Issue Passports Identifying Jerusalem as Israeli (with AUDIO INTERVIEW)
Palestinians say decision violates international law, while family whose lawsuit led to move says it ‘reflects reality’
Just days ahead of next Tuesday’s US presidential election, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that American citizens born in Jerusalem can request passports that list their place of birth as “Jerusalem, Israel.”
Pompeo, in a statement issued on Thursday, said the policy would take effect immediately, calling it “consistent” with the Trump Administration’s recognition in 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
US citizens born in the city who do not specify their place of birth as “Israel” will continue to be issued documents that show it as “Jerusalem,” with no state specified.
The Palestinian leadership considers the new American policy as designed to legitimize the Israeli occupation, where President Donald Trump favors Israel in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, vice chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization − the dominant faction in the Palestinian Authority − stressed to The Media Line that recent American decisions indicated the current administration was not only biased in favor of Israel, but had became its “partner.”
“Whether it was this decision or the previous decision that was announced by [Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [US Ambassador to Israel David] Friedman in a settlement [Ariel], allowing American institutions to perform research in illegal settlements,” Aloul continued, “dozens of American policies and positions participate in and carry out the occupation of Palestinian land.”
Dozens of American policies and positions participate in and carry out the occupation of Palestinian land
The US and Israel amended three scientific cooperation agreements on Wednesday to include Israeli institutions in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The accords were signed at Ariel University, located in the Ariel settlement.
Ammar Hijazi, the PA assistant minister for multilateral affairs, told The Media Line that the latest US decisions were a continuation of American violations of international law, showing “continuity in the program of strengthening and legitimizing Israeli colonialism.”
Hijazi pointed out that the American move challenged decisions of the international community and the UN Security Council.
“But this doesn’t create legitimacy, as these laws are local and mindful of the US,” he said.
The US is paving the way to full Israeli control over the West Bank and implementation of an annexation plan, he elaborated.
“For Palestinians, the decision doesn’t change anything. However, the danger lies in the fact that a powerful country like the US, which is a member of the Security Council where it is supposed to safeguard international law, is violating and undermining it,” he stated.
For Palestinians, the decision doesn’t change anything. However, the danger lies in the fact that a powerful country like the US, which is a member of the Security Council where it is supposed to safeguard international law, is violating and undermining it
“This goes beyond the Palestinian case, and it will reflect on other international issues in one way or another,” Hijazi added.
He said that after the American embassy was moved to Jerusalem, “the international community was required to take practical actions to confront this behavior.”
Samer Abu Shamas, an international law expert and researcher at the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), the national human rights institution of Palestine, explained to The Media Line that recent changes in American policy were aimed at uniting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“What’s built on falsehood is false. The American decision to consider Jerusalem as Israel’s capital violated international law; therefore anything they build on it is false,” Abu Shamas said.
What’s built on falsehood is false. The American decision to consider Jerusalem as Israel’s capital violated international law; therefore anything they build on it is false
He added that “both the Arab and the international communities cannot do much [about the policy changes] because the US is supported internationally.”
Abu Shamas clarified that officially, the international community opposes the American policies, but in practice it promotes them.
“The international community’s practices indirectly place huge pressure on the PA, which paralyzes its ability to oppose the American decisions,” he added.
Nabeel Shaath, an adviser on international relations to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, says Trump is the worst American president since the beginning of the Palestinian cause.
The passport policy, he says, is “taking advantage of a weak Arab reality. It’s an irresponsible decision, which destroys the peace process.”
Shaath stressed that the latest American decision was yet another in a series that encourages the Israelis to occupy and annex Palestinian land.
“This doesn’t defeat the Palestinian people; we are moving toward achieving Palestinian unity in order to face these dangers,” he said.
David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, praised his boss for the change in passport policy.
“Secretary Pompeo’s announcement reflects President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and it comports with ancient history and the current reality,” he told The Media Line.
Addressing the criticism, he added: “It is not a slight toward the Palestinians, who remain invited to negotiate peace with Israel.”
It is not a slight toward the Palestinians, who remain invited to negotiate peace with Israel
Abbas imposed a boycott on the Trump Administration in late 2017, following its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Since then, official relations have been frozen.
The family responsible for the US decision to allow “Jerusalem, Israel” to be printed on American passports has expressed satisfaction with the change.
“We are gratified and happy to learn that the State Department now plans to issue documents to American citizens born in Jerusalem that state that they were born in Israel,” Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky said in a statement on Thursday. “This seemingly simple but symbolically rich statement, which reflects reality, is something we have been looking forward to for quite some time.”
This seemingly simple but symbolically rich statement, which reflects reality, is something we have been looking forward to for quite some time
Eighteen years ago, the Zivotofskys, US citizens living in Israel, applied for a US passport on behalf of their infant son, Menachem, who had been born in Jerusalem.
They asked that his birthplace be listed as “Jerusalem, Israel” under the provisions of congressional legislation meant to counter what had been the policy of all US administrations – namely, that the city remain stateless on all official US documents, including passports, until the parties to the issue, the Israelis and the Palestinians, together determine its future.
A Washington law firm, Lewin & Lewin LLP, offered to bring suit against the US government on Menachem’s behalf, reaching the Supreme Court twice.
“The State Department’s long-standing passport policy was not neutral,” the law firm said on Thursday.
“Recognizing that some American citizens born in Israel object to the identification of ‘Israel’ as their place of birth because they oppose the existence of the State of Israel, the State Department acceded to their wishes,” it said.
“US citizens who object to ‘Israel’ on their passports are permitted to designate the city of their birth rather than any country,” it continued.
“US citizens born before 1948 anywhere in today’s Israel may have their passports read ‘Palestine’ rather than ‘Israel.’ The State Department complies with these requests even though this practice contradicts the State Department’s formal policy of listing only current sovereigns as the place of birth,” it noted.
US citizens born before 1948 anywhere in today’s Israel may have their passports read ‘Palestine’ rather than ‘Israel.’ The State Department complies with these requests even though this practice contradicts the State Department’s formal policy of listing only current sovereigns as the place of birth
The top US court eventually ruled that Congress had exceeded its authority, saying matters of foreign policy were the purview of the executive branch.
Nathan Lewin, who argued the Zivotofsky case during the first Supreme Court appearance, said the court’s “resolution of our lawsuit seemed initially like a defeat, but it turned, with President Trump’s recognition decisions, into a victory,” adding that the ruling “established conclusively that the president’s recognition decision is constitutionally immune from reversal by either of the other two branches of government.”
Menachem Zivotofsky, now 18, stated: “I am honored to be the representative of the many American citizens born in Jerusalem who want official documents to reflect that they were born in Israel!”
To hear an exclusive interview with Ari Zivotofsky by The Media Line’s Felice Friedson, click on the audio player below.
Felice Friedson, Steven Ganot and Lawrence Rifkin contributed to this report.