(October 30, 2020 / JNS) The United States has issued its first passport with Israel listed as the place of birth to a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem—in fact, to the person who was at the center of a case litigated twice at the U.S. Supreme Court that sought to allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth on their U.S. passport.
Menachem Zivotofsky was the first to get such a passport, handed to him by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at a brief ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
“I am honored to receive this passport as a representative of the many American citizens who were born in Israel, who can now have their official government documents reflect the fact that they were born in Israel. I want to thank my parents who started this process, long before I understood anything,” said Zivotofsky, whose parents first applied 18 years ago to have his U.S. passport reflect that, as someone who was born in Jerusalem, his U.S. passport should show that he was born in Israel.
A great honor to present the very first passport issued to an American citizen born in Jerusalem with the place of birth designated as “Israel” to Menachem Zivotofsky, who first applied 18 years ago and litigated twice before the US Supreme Court.
Mazal Tov! pic.twitter.com/IIoOkVP3jS
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) October 30, 2020
The ceremony came the day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that American citizens born in Jerusalem are now allowed to list Israel as their place of birth on their American passport.
“Consistent with [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump’s Jerusalem Proclamation of December 6, 2017, and the historic opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, today I am announcing updates to the Department’s guidance on passports and other consular documents issued to U.S. citizens,” said Pompeo in a statement.
“U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem who do not specify their place of birth on applications for consular services as ‘Israel’ will continue to be issued documents that indicate their place of birth as ‘Jerusalem,’ ” said Pompeo.
For American citizens born outside the United States, U.S. passports usually list countries, not cities, under place of birth. Therefore, there is no third option to list “Jerusalem, Israel” as one’s place of birth. U.S. passports for citizens born in America include the state or territory of birth.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that the executive branch has the sole power to grant recognition to sovereign states, striking down a move by Congress to command the executive to change its position on Jerusalem. While at the time the ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, which had been upholding a policy recognizing no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem, it now has allowed the Trump administration to change course on the issue.
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