U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether Passports Can List Jerusalem, Israel'

U.S. does not recognize one country as sovereign over the city, so passports of Americans born there say only `Jerusalem.'

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Part of the panoramic view of Old City of Jerusalem from the Hurva Synagogue's dome window.Credit: Jacob Solomon

The U.S. Supreme Court in the next few weeks will hear a case concerning the separation of powers within the U.S. government: whether an American born in Jerusalem can have "Jerusalem, Israel" listed as his birthplace on an American passport.

The case was filed by the parents of Menachem Zivotofsky. They want his passport to say more than simply "Jerusalem" as his place of birth. 

Congress in 2002 passed a law enabling such a listing. But the administrations of President George W. Bush – who signed the law – and President Barack Obama have said that the law interferes with the executive branch's right to conduct foreign affairs.

The U.S. does not recognize one country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. America has maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv.

In 2012, reports say, the Supreme Court determined that the courts could decide this case because it was not simply a political question and therefore beyond the courts' purview. A federal appeals court then sided with the State Department, saying the law passed by Congress impinged on the president's power to recognize foreign governments.

The schedule for Zivotofsky vs. Kerry, shown on scotusblog.com, says the case is set for argument on November 3.