The Trump administration is expected to soon announce that the U.S. passports of Americans born in Jerusalem can now mention Israel as the country of birth.
The decision, confirmed by a U.S. official Wednesday, is the latest by President Donald Trump that favors Israel in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It could be revealed as early as Thursday, just days before next week’s U.S. presidential election, and it could help Trump as he seeks to turn out evangelical Christians and other voters in his base who strongly support Israel.
American passports have not used the phrase “Jerusalem, Israel” because the exact status of the city has long been disputed as part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior to Trump, U.S. policy had been that the city’s borders and status are issues subject to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Thus, U.S. passports have simply stated their bearers were born in “Jerusalem.”
But in December 2017, Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The U.S. has since moved its Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said changing the policy on the passports was under consideration.
The U.S. official said the new policy, at least as of Wednesday, is that U.S. passport holders who were born in Jerusalem will have the option of having Israel listed as the country or simply leaving it as “Jerusalem.” The State Department is expected to make the announcement.
The question of how to list Jerusalem in U.S. passports fueled a 2015 Supreme Court decision in which the majority ruled that the president, not Congress, had the sole authority to bestow recognition on the city’s status.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has been a major proponent of changing the passport rules to allow the listing of “Jerusalem, Israel.” On Wednesday, Friedman joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a ceremony announcing that the U.S. had agreed to lift restrictions on federal investments for agriculture, science and research projects in Israeli settlements located in the West Bank, territory Palestinians claim for a future state.
The soon-to-be announced passport change is just the latest of numerous moves the Trump administration has made that favor Israel in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump has cut off aid to Palestinians, shut down their offices in Washington and downplayed talk of a two-state solution.
The Trump administration has proposed a peace plan for the Palestinians and Israelis, but it, too, is heavily weighted in favor of Israel’s positions.
More recently, the administration has helped persuade Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan to move toward normalizing their diplomatic relations with Israel, another blow to Palestinians’ hopes of international backing for their cause.