US Supreme Court Israeli Passport Ruling

by D. Blackburn

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled against a law put in place by Congress in 2002 permitting Jerusalem-born Israelis to list Israel as their place of birth on their American passports, a right currently allowed to all other Israelis. This turn of events is a blow to the efforts of Israeli foreign policy workers who have closely monitored this case for several years with hopes that the result would further secure Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, which it considers its capital city.

The Supreme Court explains the controversial ruling in stating that Jerusalem is disputed territory; and, therefore, renders Congress’ 2002 law unconstitutional as only the Executive branch has the power to deal directly with foreign governments. Like all previous US Presidents since the inception of the State of Israel, Obama has made clear he plans to bring Israelis and Palestinians to a permanent peace agreement. Allowing the 2002 law passed by Congress to be enforced would insinuate that America supports Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, the largest bargaining chip in creating two independent states.

The news outlet Al Jazeera is hailing the decision as a victory for Obama in the wake of growing tensions between the US and the Jewish State. This ruling begs several questions: First, what does this decision say about the diplomatic relationship between the US and Israel?

Over the last several years there has been a growing division between Congress, the President and the State Department in relation to Israel. Despite the ever-swaying pendulum of power within Congress, support for Israel within the Legislative Branch has, overall, maintained. However, as we see in this case, this is not enough to have sufficient impact on foreign policy towards Israel.

This brings us to the next question: If the US Congress is in support of Israel why isn’t the President? As Ken Blackwell of the World Post noted in his article, one would think something such as how birthplace is stated on official documents would be of great importance to him after there was so much question regarding his own.

The question of the sovereignty of Jerusalem is one of the biggest ongoing territorial disputes in the world. The United Nations monitors these disputes complete with UN Peacekeepers and, in necessary cases such as in Cyprus and Kosovo, creating UN protected areas or buffer zones to help resolve conflict. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia that erupted in the 1990’s when tensions between the various ethnic groups in the Baltic States came to a head is often used as a comparison for the situation in Israel.

The UN was forced to take action in several regions, namely Kosovo, which saw some of the most violent conflicts in the region. Kosovo remained under UN Control from that time until 2008 when they officially declared independence from Serbia (their second largest ethnic group next to Albanians). The acceptance of this declaration by the international community set in motion a spinning wheel of events that continues to this day. It also posed the question as to whether Kosovo set a new international precedent for sovereignty in situations of intense territorial disputes.

Tibet, for example, which is a disputed territory between China and India, has sought freedom from the Chinese government for decades. Crimea, a republic of the Ukraine, has more recently sought its independence after ongoing clashes with Russian troops and the inability of the Ukraine to protect them. Both of these regions have experienced ongoing violence, yet little has been done for them. They remain as they are with little effort by the international community to intervene.

According to Wikipedia, the approximate death toll in Tibet since 1950 is over 1 million people due to the conflict. The death toll in Israel and the territories since the inception of the country in 1948 is around 100,000, both soldiers and civilians. It gives even more perspective when those numbers are compared to population size. The population of Israel is currently around 8 million people, while Tibet is close to only 3 million.

Not that the severity of the conflict should ever be determined by numbers, but one would think it would be of far greater concern to the international community that nearly one third of the lives of the population of Tibet has been taken by the violence compared to the less than ten percent of the population in Israel. Yet, the major first world powers remain fixed on finding a potential peace agreement by finding an amicable way of dividing the land.

We know that G-d promised to not only restore physical Israel but also to restore Jerusalem to its full glory as physical as well as spiritual capital. The sole purpose in negating the passport law is none other than moving forward with the eventual separation of the Holy City as part of the two-state solution.

In Joel 4:1 and 2 it says,

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore Judah and Jerusalem from exile, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. I will plead with them there on behalf of my people, even My inheritance, Israel, whom they scattered among the nations and they divided up My land.” (TLV)