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March 28, 2012 8:45 am

New York Congressional Candidate Weights in on Jerusalem Designation

avatar by Maxine Dovere

Jerusalem. Photo: wiki commons.

Any American born in Jerusalem has, until now, been stateless. Because of a case brought by Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky on behalf of their son,  Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, 9 years old, who was born at Sharee Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, this may soon change. While Menachem still does not know what his passport will look like, he may be a step closer to having his birthplace listed as Jerusalem, Israel.

“I think and hope that the Supreme Court’s decision will force the State Department to take Congress’s will on this matter seriously,” says New York Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman.

On March 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against the US State Department – albeit only on a procedural issue. The Court ruled that it is within the jurisdiction of the lower courts to rule on whether Congress can designate that Americans born in the city that Israelis consider their capital, Jerusalem, can secure a passport that includes “Israel” in the designation of their place of birth.

The State Department had claimed that the Court lacked jurisdiction with regard to decisions stemming from a 2002 piece of legislation regarding declaration of place of birth – when that place of birth was Jerusalem. The Court has now said “no” to the State Department.  When it comes to jurisdiction in matters of Americans born in Jerusalem, the Supreme Court has said “Yes, we do.”

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While the ruling does not define the passport issue, the justices, in an 8 to 1 decision, sent the case back to a lower court.  Justice Stephen G. Breyer dissented, saying the decision could “disrupt sound foreign policy decision-making.” Arguments based on separation of power issues have been promulgated by both the Bush and Obama administrations; both have called the law unconstitutional.

The case, Zukvovosky vs. Clinton, “now returns to the lower court which will decide whether Congress had the authority to make the law it did in 2002,” said State Assemblyman Lancman at a Tuesday Press Conference in Forrest Hills, Queens, New York.

At the press conference, the Assemblyman, who is a candidate in the June primary to fill the seat now held by Congressman Gary Ackerman, declared that the Court’s decision tells the State Department that it shall “desist, and recognize that Jerusalem is part of Israel.”  “The State Department should accept the judgment of the Supreme Court,” says the Assemblyman.  “To do so will eliminate years of litigation. Accept that Jerusalem is part of Israel, as confirmed by US Congress in legislation passed in 2002.”

“Acceptance of the law would be a powerful rebuke to the worldwide de-legitimization movement. We need to get the Palestinians to get serious about the peace process. The longer they are allowed to delude themselves about issues concerning Jerusalem (and other issues), the longer they avoid coming to the bargaining table. Once the United States acknowledges that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the Palestinians can stop playing games and come to a resolution.”

“The conversation about Jerusalem is no different than conversation about settlements. The reality, says the Queens legislator is that settlements have little to do with why there is no negotiated settlement.”  He believes that the longer the President of the United States continues to “make the Palestinian case,” the harder it will be to get serious about negotiations.

“Fundamentally” says the Queens legislator, “the Palestinians are incapable of negotiating a resolution on the core issues because they have not accepted the realities of Israel and have not prepared their people to respect that reality.”  “They must accept that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. They have not accepted that or communicated it to their people.  The issue of the status of the refugees also retains fantasy elements”, he says.

“Certain realities will not go away. The Palestinians need to move beyond the imaginary and focus on what will actually get (the two parties) to a resolution.  All the things the United States has done to indulge Palestinian fantasies about Jerusalem, the settlements, and the refugees discourage them from having a serious conversation.”

Stamping American passports with “Jerusalem” as the recognized birthplace helps repeal the ideas that the status of Jerusalem is undecided, he claims.  The action helps chip away at the mistaken idea that Jerusalem is not part of Israel. “Making the legal status of the city no different from Tel Aviv, Haifa, or any other city in Israel is essential.”

“When the United States’ Congress passes a law; the US State Department of State is obligated to follow that legislation,” says Lancman. “The Supreme Court decision says that law can now be evaluated on its merits. “The State Department will do everyone a favor if it accepts the will of the American people as expressed by Congress.  According to that law, an American born in Jerusalem is now identified as being born in the State of Israel.”

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