The Trump administration, in a major reversal of U.S. foreign policy, will now permit Americans born in Jerusalem to list "Israel" as their birthplace on passports and other consular documents, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday.
The issue has been a flashpoint in U.S. diplomacy for many years. Previous administrations would not allow those born in Jerusalem to include Israel as the holy city’s location, citing a policy of not taking a stand on the contested area that is claimed by both Jews and Palestinians as their capital city. The Trump administration took a firm stand on the issue in 2018 when it moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This paved the way for the State Department to shift its policy of not including "Israel" on U.S. passports for those Americans born in Jerusalem.
"Effective immediately, the State Department will allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to elect to list their place of birth as ‘Israel,’" Pompeo said in a statement Thursday morning. "Applicants born in Jerusalem will be able to request either ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Israel’ as their place of birth on consular documents."
Those Americans who do not specify their place of birth on the applications will continue to receive documents that only state "Jerusalem" as their birthplace. The State Department’s policy regarding other disputed areas, such as the Golan Heights and West Bank area, remains unchanged, according to Pompeo.
"The United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its seat of government but continues to take no position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem," Pompeo said. "This matter remains subject to final status negotiations between the two parties."
The passport issue has long been a source of tension between the United States and Israel. The State Department’s previous refusal to list "Jerusalem, Israel," as a birthplace on American documents prompted a case that reached the Supreme Court in 2015. At that time, the court decided that only the president has the power to recognize sovereign territories, paving the way for President Donald Trump’s relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel.