A New Yorker living in Israel filed a law suit this past week against the Bush administration in an effort to press it to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Ari Zivotofsky claims in the suit that the State Department broke the law when it refused to list Israel as the place of birth on his 11-month-old son’s passport, even though he was born in Jerusalem.
A law passed last year requires the State Department to list Israel as the country of origin for American citizens born in Jerusalem on passports, birth certificates and certificates of nationality. The law, a clause in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, calls on the United States explicitly to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The White House said at the time that the provisions would be viewed as advisory given the Executive Office’s undisputed authority in foreign policy matters.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat who is a sponsor of the Jerusalem-related provisions, said at a press conference in New York City that the documentation provision doesn’t bear on Jerusalem’s status and is merely a practical acknowledgement that Jerusalem is within the borders of Israel.
“This is simply a clerical issue at the Department of State pushing what country people are in when they get a passport like this,” Weiner said. “The White House and State Department are allowing this creeping political correctness to reach absurd lengths.” Weiner said the lawsuit was an important first step toward proclaiming Jerusalem Israel’s capital in the face of prior legislative defeats.
The White House has historically resisted such congressional pressure, saying it would inflame Arab sensibilities and imperil Middle East peace negotiations. At the same time, the Bush administration has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, having come into office on a platform recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Anthony Weiner’s efforts highlight the great hypocrisy of these people,” said Ira Forman, of the National Jewish Democratic Council, “and it highlights the failure of our community to criticize a president when it’s appropriate.”
A leading Republican Party activist, Fred Zeidman, who chairs the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, cautioned against pushing the administration too far, saying the Jewish community needs to give the president more time to work out the details of what is currently a volatile situation. Zeidman noted that he was not speaking on behalf of the Holocaust council.
At the very least, observers say, the Bush administration needs to provide an explanation. Weiner isn’t holding his breath.
“To those of us in the Congress, there is no dispute,” Weiner said. “While the embassy might have to wait to be moved until the president certifies it, this is one provision of the law that he does not have an option over, and we’re going to be suing him to force his hand.”