To the enormous frustration of Israel and its supporters, the United States does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or even a city within its borders. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have insisted that the status of Jerusalem is a matter to be determined in negotiations, and that congressional resolutions stating otherwise do not trump executive branch policy.
This week, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, supported the administration view in a case brought by American immigrants to Israel asking that the word “Israel” be included on U.S. passports of children born in Jerusalem. The ruling effectively nullified a law passed by Congress in 2002 requiring the State Department to list “Israel” as a birth country for Jerusalem-born Americans.
While a disappointment to the pro-Israel community, the ruling is neither a partisan slap at Israel, as some have portrayed it, nor a blow to the power of Congress to help determine foreign policy. As the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, and other Jewish organizations noted, the decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry was a narrow one about presidential powers and, according to AIPAC, “clearly recognizes the important role that Congress plays in U.S. foreign policy.” With Congress seeking to assert itself in the Iran nuclear deal, the court decision does not undermine its historic role in “strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Presidential candidates consistently promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and, once elected, just as consistently demur. Recognition of Jerusalem, like so much else in the Middle East, is a casualty of the failure of the peace process. The city of peace will be whole, and wholly part of Israel, once both sides reach a negotiated solution to their conflict.