Israeli-Palestinian conflict reflected in U.S. passports
Tensions from the U.S. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict may be dividing the Executive and Legislative Branch over how place of birth should be listed on U.S. passports when disputed territories are involved.
A place of birth is a region that denotes where a child is born into the world. It can determine nationality, citizenship and is a frequently asked question on all official documents. Recently, in the case Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the question of border determination in disputed regions comes into play.
Congress had recently passed a wide-ranging law that President Bush approved regarding many territory dispute issues, including when place of birth is considered. The law stated that children of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem were to have "Jerusalem, Israel" inscribed on their passports. However, both the previous and current administration fail to acknowledge that law, and are insinuating that the Legislative Branch breached the powers of the Executive Branch. Many Jerusalem born U.S. citizens are challenging this by arguing Congress has the power to determine where certain territories are located.
While Congress may have enumerated powers, those have very little to do with international geography but more with diplomacy. The President is the one with the power in general foreign relations. For example, Congress could declare war on Vietnam; however, this has nothing to do with the geography but with the country's entity itself. The war wouldn't necessarily be detained to the territory of Vietnam, but rather where the Vietnamese forces are located.
Therefore, Congress doesn't have a say in foreign affairs such as this. The U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs created a volume for consular affairs. Controversial areas are to be labeled by their name for place of birth, but the passport holders are given a choice to either write the disputed territory or the name of the country but not both. In the same manual, those born in Taiwan are given the choice of either having Taiwan or China on their passport but not both. The next section is dedicated to those born in Israel, Jerusalem, and Israeli occupied areas where it states that those born in Jerusalem should only be listed as Jerusalem.
This distinction is necessary because while Taiwan may not be officially recognized by the United States, it is not comparable to Jerusalem, which is currently in the middle of a conflict. Also, having those individuals listed as being born in Jerusalem will only facilitate their passport renewal in the future. Their birth certificate would show a hospital in Jerusalem so, if Jerusalem was to become the territory of one of the regions fighting over their claim, then it would be much easier to accommodate the passport holder. Having someone whose passport only has the name of a country which does not correlate with the hospital listed on their birth certificate will only cause further legal issues.
Some may argue that this issue's controversy is due to recognition of international territories similar to China and Taiwan. For numerous diplomatic reasons, the US does not officially recognize Taiwan as an independent state or country from China. Therefore, when US citizens are born in Taiwan, they have the choice to list Taiwan, or China for place as their place of birth.
However, this issue is more about border determination. Considering Israel, Palestine and the West Bank all have a claim on Jerusalem, this is a dispute that needs to be settled by those three. It is not up to the United States to pacify the citizens of the United States who have children born in a disputed territory.
If the United States chooses to acknowledge Jerusalem as the territory of one country, when there are two powers disputing that claim, we are officially taking sides in the conflict. As a military superpower in the world, the United States should be very careful when considering who to ally with and who to increase diplomatic tensions with. Also, as a country that encouraged Palestine and Israel to have peace talks to determine border determination, water rights, security, mutual recognition, settlements and settle many other points of controversy, we should not be so quick to pick sides or play favorites.
While one cannot deny that the United States is already deeply imbedded in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is only for the universally acceptable goal of peaceful compromise. Listing those born in Jerusalem as "Israel" or "Jerusalem, Israel" is firing shots at Palestine. The pragmatics behind those actions can hold serious consequences in an international setting.
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