Recognizing Jerusalem at Issue in Passport Case

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THE SUPREME COURT -- A 9-year-old boy's desire to have the word 'Israel' on his passport has dragged all three branches of the United State's government into a legal fight before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2002, Congress decided to allow Americans born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their country of birth.

However, the Bush administration refused to go along with the legislative branch, since the United States doesn't recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

At first, this case seems simple enough. An American-born Jewish couple who'd moved to Israel wanted the fact that their newborn baby, Menachem Zivotofsky, was born in Israel included on his passport.

The problem is he was born in Jerusalem. While Congress okayed this request in 2002, the Bush administration said no.

"This is a big foreign policy matter question and it's de facto recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," administration officials said.

That's when the law firm of Lewin and Lewin became involved in the case

"There are individuals who have this deep, strong feeling towards a particular place," attorney Alyza Lewin said.

"They recognize it with regards, for instance, to Taiwan, when they allow individuals born in Taiwan to list Taiwan as their place of birth, even though Taiwan is not recognized as sovereign. China is recognized as sovereign," Lewin explained.

CBN News spoke to Nat Lewin, the lawyer who argued this case for the Zivotofskys before the Supreme Court.

Lewin said as far as his firm is concerned, when it's a clash between Congress and the president, Congress wins.

The Obama administration definitely disagrees with his legal theory. Lewin said this whole controversy of the clash between the executive and the legislative branches could be done away with if the State Department would just realize that this is a matter of identification of Israel on the passport, not a matter of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

CBN News Senior Editor John Waage spoke about why the White House and the State Department oppose putting "Jerusalem, Israel" on a passport, and why Jerusalem has become such a top priority in the Muslim world, on CBN Newswatch, Nov. 7.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at