The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the American citizen parents of a boy born in 2002 in Jerusalem who wanted his passport to list the place of birth as “Jerusalem, Israel.”
The State Department, which issues passports, had refused. It did so in conformance with a long running U.S. policy to list the place of birth for Americans born in that city as simply, “Jerusalem.”
The president has the exclusive power to make such a decision, the court ruled in a 6-3 vote.
The court was asked to choose between two different branches of government. The administration, under presidents of both parities, has insisted that because sovereignty over Jerusalem is one of the major sticking points in any Middle East peace agreement, the U.S. would remain neutral. Being forced to say that Jerusalem was under the control of Israel, the idea went, would be taking sides.
Congress, however, did take sides, passing a law in 2002 that directed the State Department to identify any U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem as born in Israel, if the parents so requested.
President Bush signed the law, but said it interfered with a president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.
The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to rule that conducting foreign policy is the province of the executive, not Congress, and to leave this third rail of Middle East politics alone. ”The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive flash points in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” the Justice Department warned.