The Supreme Court (Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court weighed into one of the thorniest issues in the Middle East conflict — who has sovereignty over Jerusalem — ruling that courts have the power to decide whether Congress can order that passports for U.S. citizens born there list "Israel" as their birthplace.
The justices, ruling 8 to 1 on Monday, passed the decision back to a lower court. So Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, now 9, will have to wait to find out what his passport will look like.
The U.S. has long taken the position that sovereignty over Jerusalem, which Israelis and Palestinians both claim as their capital, must be resolved in negotiations, so the government does not recognize Israeli sovereignty there. But in 2002, Congress passed a bill urging that the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv be relocated to Jerusalem and ordering that "Israel" should be listed as the birthplace for those born in the city who request it.
The George W. Bush and Obama administrations argued that the law was unconstitutional because it impinged on the president's right to conduct foreign policy.
Ultimately, the case probably will return to the high court. "I hope this gets resolved favorably so this boy can put Israel on his passport before his bar mitzvah four years from now," said Nathan Lewin, his lawyer.
Fess up, we all know this is about much more than what Menachem wants for his bar mitzvah. This case is scary. Not only would it set a precedent of sorts regarding Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, but it also would play directly into the lobby's hands if Congress is granted the power to conduct foreign policy. Coming soon - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as secretary of state.