The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a Jerusalem-born boy's challenge to U.S. State Department policy that prevents him from having his passport show he was born in Israel.While the case is very interesting on a number of legal and political levels, there is one important aspect that is being downplayed.
Middle Eastern politics and the battle between Congress and the president over foreign policy are at play in the case being argued at the high court Monday. The boy, Menachem Zivotofsky, and his parents, Naomi and Ari, flew in from Israel to attend Monday's Supreme Court arguments.
The Obama administration, like its Republican and Democratic predecessors, says it does not want to stir up anger in the Arab world by appearing to take a position on the ultimate fate of Jerusalem. Longstanding U.S. policy says the status of the city that is important to Jews, Muslims and Christians should be resolved in negotiations.
But lawyers for 9-year-old Menachem argue that the foreign policy concerns are trivial. Thirty-nine lawmakers from both parties are siding with the boy and his parents, defending a provision in a 2002 law that allows Israel to be listed as the birthplace for Americans born in Jerusalem.
President George W. Bush signed the much larger law, but said the provision on Jerusalem interfered with his power over foreign affairs, including the authority to recognize foreign states. Bush issued a signing statement at the time in which he said that "U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed."
Israel has proclaimed the once-divided city as its capital; the U.S. and most nations do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital.
Had Menachem been born in Tel Aviv, the State Department would have issued a passport listing his place of birth as Israel. The regular practice for recording the birth of a U.S. citizen abroad is to list the country where it occurred.
But the department's guide tells consular officials, "For a person born in Jerusalem, write Jerusalem as the place of birth in the passport."
In late 2002, Naomi Zivotofsky, Menachem's mother, showed up at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to get her baby a U.S. passport, one that listed Israel as his birthplace. After State Department officials refused her request, the family sued.
Menachem Zivotofsky was born on the western side of the Green Line.
Whenever you hear anyone claim that the Green Line represents "internationally recognized boundaries" - which it never did - ask yourself why exactly the world does not recognize the parts of Jerusalem under Israeli control since 1948 to be officially part of Israel.
Whenever you hear that American leaders follow their "Zionist masters," ask yourself why both the current and previous administrations were so dead-set against recognizing any part of Jerusalem as being in Israel.
People who insist that Israel withdraw to "pre-1967 lines" seem to be selective in recognizing Israel's claim to the western side of that same line.
Either the Green Line is a fiction or it isn't. Saying that even the western part of Jerusalem is not part of Israel - the official White House position for the past two administrations - is a fundamentally inconsistent position with stated US policy, and it makes one wonder how much Israel should trust its best friend.