US Court to Discuss Jerusalem

The US Supreme Court will hear an appeal by an American couple that their son’s birthplace be recorded as Jerusalem, Israel.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 2:16 PM

US Supreme Court judges
US Supreme Court judges
Israel news photo: US government

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal by an American couple that the birthplace of their eight-year old son Menachem, who was born in Jerusalem, be recorded as "Israel," as is done for Americans born in other cities, and not simply "Jerusalem."

The court only accepts approximately 100 cases a year. Unlike the judicial system in Israel, the American Supreme Court does not act as a court of appeal except in cases that involve a question of whether the law has been interpreted properly.

The State Department has refused a request by Ari and Naomi Sideman Zivotofsky, whose appeal was rejected by a federal court on the grounds that their complaint involved a “political question" that is not to be decided judicially.  

Congress passed a law in 2002, one month before Menachem was born, ordering the State Department to record "Israel" on birth certificates if such a request is made for someone born in Jerusalem. The State Department has stood by its claim that the issue is a matter of policy as such, is under the jurisdiction of  the Executive Branch.

The federal court ruled, "That the United States expresses no official view on the thorny issue of whether Jerusalem is part of Israel has been a central and calibrated feature of every president's foreign policy since Harry S. Truman.

"Because the judiciary has no authority to order the Executive Branch to change the nation's foreign policy in this matter, this case is unquestionably under the political question doctrine."

The Supreme Court judges told the Zivotofskys and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reply whether the Foreign Relations Authorization Act “impermissibly infringes upon the President's power to recognize foreign sovereigns."

The United States has maintained a policy of listing only the country “Israel” and not the city, no matter which one, as a birthplace for Americans. However, even before the Six-Day War in 1967 when parts of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan were restored to Israel, American birth certificates for people born in the capital recorded "Jerusalem," and not "Israel."

"The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and long-standing disputes in the Arab-Israeli conflict," the Sate Department told the Supreme Court. After the Six-Day War, the United States and all other countries pulled their embassies out of the city in order not to indicate to Arabs a recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the capital.