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US Supreme Court strikes down Jerusalem passport law

The top court in the US has invalidated a law allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to list Israel as their birthplace in passports. The decision is a victory for the White House.

The US Supreme Court struck down a law on Monday that would have allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birthplaces in their US passports. The court cited the president's authority to determine US foreign policy.

The 2002 statute would have forced the State Department to change its long-held policy of remaining neutral on the contested sovereignty over a city holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Although Israel calls Jerusalem its capital, Palestinians also hope one day to claim the eastern part of the city as capital of an unoccupied Palestine. Most countries, including the United States, do not recognize Israel's claim, instead maintaining their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Years unused, then struck down entirely

Although the statute became a law in 2002, then-President George W. Bush issued a signing statement indicating he would not put the new rule into practice - a position Barack Obama did not change. The traditional State Department tactic was to list "Jerusalem" as place of birth with no country name on the passports. One family's push for their son's birthplace to be "Israel" ultimately took the case to the Supreme Court, culminating in Monday's 6-3 ruling.

President Barack Obama's administration argued that the law limited the president's constitutional power to set foreign policy and undermined US efforts to mediate in the Middle East. The president has sole authority to issue American recognition of who controls Jerusalem, the administration said in court papers.

The court's ruling coincided with increased strain in Israeli-American relations following President Benjamin Netanyahu's criticism of the US role in international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, as well as his pre-election comments in March in which he said he would not pursue a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. He later retracted the campaign trail comments.

es/msh (AP, Reuters)

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