Harvey Schwartz, Chair of the American Israeli Action Coalition, participated this week in the Jerusalem Conference for English speakers, which was held in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.
Schwartz discussed the case of a Jerusalem-born U.S. citizen who is asking to have the country Israel put on his passport.
“As of now, the United States policy is to simply put the word Jerusalem as the city, but to leave the space calling for the country blank,” Schwartz told Arutz Sheva.
He noted, “Congress passed a law requiring the State Department to include the word Israel on passports. The State Department takes the position that it’s an infringement upon the President’s exclusive power to control and deal with American foreign policy.”
Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem soon after the law was passed. His parents requested that the place of birth on his U.S. passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad be listed as Israel, but the State Department refused the request, leading the Zivotofskys to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Schwartz noted that when President George W. Bush signed the legislation into law, he said that the clause requiring the State Department to include the word Israel would be advisory. This was done despite the fact that the legislation used the word “shall” rather than the word “may.”
The issue, Schwartz explained, is centered on whether Israel has sovereignty over Jerusalem.
“United States policy has been consistent since 1948 that Israel is not sovereign over Jerusalem,” he said. “Rather, the question of Jerusalem’s sovereignty is to be determined, ultimately, by resolution between the parties – I guess the parties meaning, at this stage of the game, Israel and the Palestinians. That’s been consistent U.S. policy.”
“Congress, on the other hand,” explained Schwartz, “has taken a far different position and is fully prepared to recognize Israel as having sovereignty over Jerusalem, which is, of course, the capital of Israel.”
As for what will happen next, that depends on how the Supreme Court rules in the case.
“Assuming the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Zivotofskys, that presumably will be the end of it,” Schwartz said. “On the other hand, if for some reason the Supreme Court either rules against them or decides that it doesn’t have the authority to deal with the question, then the next issue will be how to get further enforcement of the Congressional legislation.”