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Born in Jerusalem, uh, Israel

The Supreme Court heard a case recently with significant implications for Israel. The court was asked to determine the constitutionality of Congress’ role in requiring the State Department to list “Israel” on the passport of any American citizen born in Jerusalem. Currently, only “Jerusalem” appears on these documents, which thus omits designation of any nation’s (read: Israel’s) sovereign title to that city.

In what most concede to be a shrewd political play, the U.S. administration has vigorously opposed attaching Israel’s name to these passports, claiming it was against administrative policy to recognize Jerusalem as under Israeli sovereignty.

The argument is as simple as it is dishonest: namely, that such a move could lead to violence if implemented. The government’s refusal, however, does not comply with the law.

As a result, the United States was sued by the family of Menachem Zivotofsky to force compliance with a statute that they claim should be invoked for their son, born in Jerusalem in 2002. Their request, simply stated, is that their son’s passport state that he was born in Israel.

A close reading of the arguments in the case makes clear that the administration’s opposition is completely misplaced. In the arguments, the advocate for the government, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, stated: “The position of the executive (i.e., President Barack Obama) is that we recognize, as a practical matter, the authority of Israel over West Jerusalem.”

Here, the point is deliberately made to suggest that the basis for the denial is that Israel’s sovereignty is disputed in other areas that make up Jerusalem proper.

But if geography is the cause of the dispute, it need not be. Menachem Zivotofsky was born in the western part of Jerusalem and, accordingly, qualifies to have Israel clearly identified on his U.S. passport without the risk of violating U.S. policy at all.

Further, Israel’s largest hospitals — Hadassah, Shaare Zedek, Misgav Ladach and Bikur Cholim — are all in the western part of Jerusalem, an area the U.S. administration recognizes as under Israeli sovereignty. Therefore, every American born in those Jerusalem hospitals is born in areas the administration should recognize as “Israel.”

The law requires that the name of a person’s country of birth be put on their passports, and not the city. Therefore, someone born in Jerusalem should be listed as born in Israel. But the Obama administration steadfastly refuses, its opposition apparently based upon a notion that it is being forced to change its foreign policy position. The reason is purely political, and legally bogus.

It should be noted that 93 out of 100 senators voted for the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Two of those senators were Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. As a senator, Kerry also signed a letter to President Bill Clinton, along with 83 colleagues, which stated that the waiver provision of the Jerusalem Embassy Act only applied to moving the embassy to Jerusalem and not to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Obama administration has joined previous administrations in not complying with this act.

The Obama administration should drop its opposition to the law and start listing Israel on all relevant American passports, beginning with Zivotofsky’s. The failure to put the name of Israel on the passport of an American born in Jerusalem is simply a wrong that the Supreme Court has an opportunity and an obligation to right.

Farley Weiss is president of the National Council of Young Israel.