The U.S. Supreme Court appears deeply split on a case involving the official status of Jerusalem in the eyes of the United States government.
The case revolves around Menachem Zivotofsky, a 12-year-old American citizen born in Jerusalem, whose parents insist they want his passport to read “Israel, ” which is where Jerusalem happens to be. So far, the State Department is only willing to recognize young Menachem’s birthplace as Jerusalem, a city without a country.
A court decision forcing the U.S. government to add the name Israel alongside the city’s name would effectively recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, following which the Palestinians would surely burn down stuff and throw things.
According to USA Today, some of the justices embrace Congress’ right to declare, back in 2002, that Americans born in Jerusalem should be able to have “Israel” listed as the place of birth on their passports. The U.S. has never enforced the 2002 passport legislation, incidentally.
Some justices accept the State Department’s right to set foreign policy, which includes deciding territory belongs in which country.
Obama appointee Justice Sonia Sotomayor actually said it would be “asking the government to lie” if it accepted that Jerusalem was part of Israel while the status of the city is in dispute.
Another Obama appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, who is Jewish, called Jerusalem a “tinderbox.”
She happens to be right, but even tinderboxes need to have an officially recognized country…
Kagan said the outcome of the case would be watched closely, and that “History suggests that everything is a big deal with respect to the status of Jerusalem.”
Justice Antonin Scalia said: “If it is within Congress’s power, what difference does it make whether it antagonizes foreign countries?”
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., Obama’s top Supreme Court attorney, wrote in court papers that “The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive flash points in the Arab-Israeli conflict, whilst U.S.”
Verrilli said that should the high court sides with the plaintiffs, this would undermine the president’s authority to set policy for “the most vexing and volatile and difficult diplomatic issue that this country has faced for decades.”
The court’s three Jews, including Justice Stephen Breyer, are most likely going to side with the government, against Israel’s right to name Jerusalem its capital.
It’s the five right wing gentiles on the bench, including Justices Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts, who will probably side with the plaintiffs and with Congress.
If the Zivotofskys win, there will be a line of close to 50, 000 Jerusalem-born U.S. citizens who could be asking for a change in their passports.
Alyza Lewin, who represents the couple, argued that Congress was simply allowing Americans a personal choice and not seeking to dictate U.S. policy.
“What goes on a passport as a place of birth is not tantamount to recognition, ” Lewin argued.
Well, it actually does. And it should. Every single candidate running for president declares they would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to date not one has lived up to the promise, from either political party.
And just to make that tribal connection complete, Jewish Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that the law allows Americans born in Jerusalem to get Israel on their passports, but not Palestine.
“This is a very selective vanity plate law, if you want to call it that, ” Kagan said. “That suggests that Congress had a view and the view was that Jerusalem was properly part of Israel.”
Yes, it does suggest that, and Congress, last time we checked, represents the American people.
Anyway, the court will be discussing this case on Friday. Stay tuned.