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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Congress members call on Trump to permit Americans to list Jerusalem, Israel as their birthplace

A delegation of more than 50 members of Congress is calling on the Trump administration to reverse a longstanding policy that prohibits Americans born in Jerusalem from listing Israel as their birthplace on official documents, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday.

The Congressmen made the request in a letter sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Congress has been working for more than 15 years to reverse the policy, which former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama followed, citing the possibility that recognizing Jerusalem as being part of Israel would interfere with the United States' ability to be an honest broker in the Middle East peace process.

Congress is calling on Trump to reverse the contested policy, which was challenged in the Supreme Court in 2015 by the Zivotofsky family, whose child was born in Jerusalem.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Zivotofsky family, siding with the Obama State Department's refusal to comply with their request to list "Jerusalem, Israel" as the birthplace of their child, Menachem Binyamin.

By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court struck down a law from 2002 which requires the State Department to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel.

Now, given Trump's call to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Congress believes the president may nix the policy and comply with the 2002 law.

"We write to urge you to revise the State Department's policy regarding the birthplace designation on passports and consular reports of birth abroad for American citizens born in Jerusalem," a delegation of 52 lawmakers led by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) wrote to Tillerson late Wednesday, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.

"Under the current policy, Americans born in Jerusalem have no country of birth listed on these documents; they are identified only as having been born in Jerusalem," the lawmakers wrote. "We ask that you change the policy to permit Jerusalem-born Americans to have ‘Israel' listed as their birthplace."

The lawmakers argue that such a policy change would not interfere with U.S. efforts to foster Middle East peace and would restore a natural right that Americans born abroad should enjoy.

"The policy change would not only honor the personal preferences and convictions of many Americans, but would also effectuate the clear intent and will of the U.S. Congress," the letter states.

The lawmakers also rejected the Supreme Court's argument in its 2015 ruling, that allowing to list "Jerusalem, Israel" as a birthplace would interfere with a president's exclusive power to dictate American foreign policy.

"As you know, this law, passed in 2002, required the State Department to record ‘Israel' as a Jerusalem-born citizen's birthplace on his/her passport," they wrote. "The State Department, under the Bush and Obama administration, refused to comply with this congressional mandate."

"Your decision to institute a policy permitting Americans born in Jerusalem to have ‘Israel' listed as their birthplace on their passports and consular reports of birth abroad would not contravene the Supreme Court's decision," the letter states.

The members of Congress urge Trump and Tillerson to comply with Congress' longstanding will, as well as that of many Americans.

"This is an important opportunity for the Executive to unite with Congress and speak with one voice regarding the birthplace designations on the passports of Americans born in Jerusalem," the letter states. "We urge you to issue a new policy that will effectuate the will of Congress, as well as honor the personal preferences of thousands of Americans, with no threat to the president's authority and power, or to our country's foreign policy."

The letter comes as Trump continues to mull moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of his central campaign promises.

Despite the campaign promises, however, things seem to have stalled. Trump appeared to back down a bit from his campaign pledge, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)in January that such a move would not be “easy”.

At the same time, a senior Republican official recently said that Trump is likely to use his upcoming trip to Israel to announce the relocation of the embassy.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Wednesday that Trump continues to discuss the possibility of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Spicer, who spoke to reporters after Trump's meeting with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, stressed that these discussions are private and would not comment further.

By: Ben Ariel