State Department: Jerusalem 'capital of Israel'

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced Oct. 29 that "the State Department will allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to request either 'Jerusalem' or 'Israel' as their place of birth on consular documents," including passports. The announcement is the latest in US pro-Israel policy shifts that began with President Donald Trump's December 2017 presidential proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. The proclamation reversed decades of US policy and drew criticism from the international community. In May 2018, the US Embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In 2015, the US Supreme Court struck down a law that allowed United States citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birthplace on their passports. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that the 2002 law improperly interfered with the president's constitutional power to recognize foreign nations.

Pompeo indicated that his new announcement was "consistent" with President Trump's policies. For US citizens born in Jerusalem who do not specify their place of birth on consular applications as "Israel," issued documents will indicate their place of birth as "Jerusalem."

"As the President stated in his proclamation, the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its seat of government but continues to take no position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem," said Pompeo. "This matter remains subject to final status negotiations between the two Parties." He further "encourage[d] Palestinians to come to the table and negotiate."

From Jurist, Oct. 29. Used with permission.

NoteMenachem Zivotofsky, whose case went to the Supreme Court in 2015, finally received his passport with the place of birth listed as "Jerusalem, Israel" on Oct. 30—one day after Pompeo's announcement. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman officially handed him the passport in a brief ceremony at the embassy in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)

Pompeo legitimizes Israeli annexation

Mike Pompeo's trip to Israel marked three firsts for a US secretary of state. 1. He visited an (illegal, of course) West Bank settlement, specifically the Psagot winery at Jabal al-Tawil, outside Ramallah—which has (sickeningly) names a wine variety in his honor. 2. He visited the de facto annexed Golan Heights.  3. He announced new guidelines to label goods made in West Bank settlements as "Made in Israel." He also announced the BDS movement will be officially designated "anti-Semitic," cutting off US government funding to any organizations linked to it. (Al Jazeera, BBC News, The Hill)

Biden restores aid to Palestinians

Just six days after taking office, the Biden administration took a sharp turn in US policy in the Middle East, announcing it will resume contact with Palestinian leaders and restore U.S. contributions to the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinians, UNRWA.

The changes were announced in a virtual speech before the Security Council by Richard Mills, acting US ambassador to the United Nations. Mills also said the new administration is committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a secure Israel alongside a "viable Palestinian state."

Mills made no mention of reversing either the move of the US embassy move to Jerusalem or US recognition of Israeli rule in the Golan Heights. And he said the US "will maintain its steadfast support for Israel." (NPR, Jan. 26)