First Yerushalayim-Born American Receives U.S. Passport With ‘Israel’ as Birthplace

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman presents Menachem Zivotosky, a U.S. citizen who was born in Yerushalayim, his passport listing Israel as his birthplace, at the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim, on Friday. (Debbie Hill/Pool via Reuters)

The United States on Friday issued for the first time a passport to a Yerushalayim-born American with ‘Israel‘ listed as the place of birth instead of the city.

Following the State Department’s announcement Thursday, announcing that the Department will now allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to elect to list their place of birth as either “Israel” or “Jerusalem,” the first passport exemplifying the new regulation was issued Friday, at the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim. The passport was issued to Menachem Zivotofsky, the subject of two Supreme Court cases on this issue, and lists his place of birth as “Israel.”

“Menachem Zivotofsky, it is my honor to present you with the very first passport issued to an American citizen born in Jerusalem with ‘Israel’ designated as the place of birth,” said U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Ambassador Friedman added: “I would like to thank Secretary Michael Pompeo for his leadership. It’s no secret that under prior stewardship the State Department would not alter the passport designation even after Jerusalem was recognized as Israel’s capital. Secretary Pompeo cut through that bureaucracy and brought our passport policy in line with our foreign policy and common sense.”

“Finally, I would like to thank President Donald Trump who set this course in motion. In moving our Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump kept a sacred promise and reinforced our commitment to stand with our friends and to never flinch in the face of groundless opposition or threats. Our stature as a nation has been greatly enhanced by President Trump’s courage and determination.”

According to the State Department’s announcement, U.S. citizens born in Yerushalayim will now be able to request either “Jerusalem” or “Israel” as their place of birth on consular documents. Those U.S. citizens born in Yerushalayim 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.” Current guidance permitting use of “Palestine” in some cases for those born before May 14, 1948 remains unaltered. This policy change does not affect U.S. citizens born outside of Yerushalayim.

U.S. citizens holding currently-valid passports listing Yerushalayim as place of birth are not required to obtain a new passport at this time, and should travel on those passports. U.S. citizens wishing to change their place of birth from Jerusalem to Israel are encouraged to do so when renewing their U.S. passport within a year of its expiration date.

The status of Yerushalayim is among the most contentious issues in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom claim the city as their capital.

Since Israel was founded in 1948, successive American governments declined to recognize any country as having sovereignty over Yerushalayim, and State Department policy was to list only the city as a birthplace, leaving resolution of such a sensitive issue to the parties in the dispute.

But in 2017 Trump recognized Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital and in 2018 moved the U.S. Embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, to reactions of anger and dismay including from European allies.

The administration of Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, argued that if the law were enforced it would have caused “irreversible damage” to America’s ability to influence the Middle East peace process. Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians broke down in 2014.

Trump’s decisions on Yerushalayim have been welcomed by Israel.

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