U.S. Supreme Court will hear appeal on Jerusalem passport


(JTA) — The U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear the appeal of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem whose parents want Israel listed as his country of birth on his passport.

The court agreed Monday to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case of 9-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky and his parents, Ari and Naomi. A three-judge panel of the appeals court had ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the case, which was brought under a 2002 law passed shortly before Menachem was born that allows Americans born in Jerusalem to list the city as in "Israel."

President Bush signed the law but reserved the right to ignore it. Presidents traditionally have resisted efforts to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli, saying that such recognition would pre-empt Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

State Department officials refused to list Menachem as being born in Israel when his parents, who were both born in America and are U.S. citizens, appeared at the U.S. Embassy in Israel to obtain a passport for their son.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in 2007 threw out the case, saying the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter because resolving the "claim on the merits would necessarily require the court to decide the political status of Jerusalem. The case law makes clear that the Constitution commits that decision to the executive branch." The case then went to the appeals court.

The Zivotofskys’ Washington-based attorney, Nathan Lewin, told JTA that "We are gratified that the Supreme Court added the ultimate question whether the passport designation truly interferes with the President’s power over foreign relations.

"Once the State Department’s passport practices and policy are closely examined," he said, "the Court will see that the argument that Congress has interfered with the President’s constitutional authority is unjustified and that the State Department’s policy simply discriminates against American citizens who are proud to have been born in Israel and allows enemies of Israel to eradicate mention of it from their passports."


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