Republicans to Tillerson: Change Policy on Referring to Jerusalem Like It Isn't Part of Israel

Currently official U.S. documents such as passports reference Jerusalem as if it wasn’t a part of Israel

Jerusalem.
RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters

WASHINGTON - More than 50 Republican members of Congress sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking him to change the State Department's policy on referring to Jerusalem in official U.S. documents such as passports and consular reports. Under current policy, Americans born in Jerusalem aren't listed as born in Israel - which is what the Republican legislators wish to fix.

"We ask that you change the policy to permit Jerusalem-born Americans to have 'Israel' listed as their birthplace in passports and consular reports of birth abroad," the legislators wrote. "If you institute what we are requesting, there will be no geo-political impact, but such a policy will be meaningful to a number of fellow citizens."

The legislators note that Congress passed legislation that was supposed to overturn the current State Department policy in 2002, but the U.S. Supreme Court concluded two years ago that this legislation was invalid, and that Congress could not dictate policy on this matter to the executive branch. Similar demands by Republican members of Congress have been raised in the past, but were never adopted by the State Department.

Now, the legislators are asking Tillerson to change his department's policy - one which the United States adheres to as a result of not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. There have been reports in the last two weeks that during his visit to Israel later this month, President Trump will announce that America officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but the White House has not confirmed them. As of today, no country in the world recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, or has its embassy in the city. It is not clear how leading Arab and Muslim allies of the United States would react to such a declaration.

The Republican legislators wrote in their letter that "this is an important opportunity for the Executive Branch to unite with Congress and speak with one voice." They concluded by urging Tillerson "to issue a new policy that will effectuate the will of Congress, as well as honor the personal preference of thousands of Americans, with no threat to the president's authority or power, or to our country's foreign policy."