Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) has filed an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to uphold the Executive Branch's sole prerogative to determine U.S. foreign policy related to the recognition of sovereignty in Jerusalem. The brief specifically addresses the way in which the U.S. Department of State records the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem in documents issued by the U.S. government.
APN filed the brief last week in the case of Zivotofsky v. Clinton, which the Court has agreed to hear later this year. APN's Friend of the Court brief supports the position of the Obama administration, a position taken by all U.S. presidents, Republicans and Democrats, since the establishment of the state of Israel.
APN's amicus brief makes clear that this case is not merely about how a certain subset of Americans has their birthplace recorded in U.S. government-issued documents, nor is it about a simple administrative question regarding what branch of government has authority over matters related to the issuance of passports. Rather, as APN argues in the brief, "this case represents a direct challenge to more than six decades of United States foreign policy on one of the most sensitive foreign policy questions facing the United States - recognition of sovereignty in Jerusalem." APN argues that this issue of recognition of sovereignty in Jerusalem is the quintessential example of why the Constitution clearly places such sensitive foreign policy decisions - specifically those related to recognition of foreign sovereigns and determining the extent of their territorial sovereignty - in the hands of the president.
APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "APN has taken a position in this case because we recognize what is at stake here: preserving the very possibility of peace and the two-state solution, the only thing that can guarantee Israel's long term security and survival as a democracy and a Jewish state. For more than six decades, the U.S. has maintained a consistent and principled policy of refusing to recognize the sovereignty of any country in Jerusalem. Changing this policy now - the clear goal of this litigation - would drive a stake into the heart of efforts to re-start the peace process, would undermine the chances of launching viable peace efforts in the future, and would fatally threaten the credibility of the United States as an honest broker in peace efforts."
"Our government's policy of refusing to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is difficult for many of our fellow members of the American Jewish community to accept. But recording someone's birthplace as "Jerusalem" rather than "Israel" in no way threatens our religious, spiritual, and historical attachment and claims in the city. In our hearts, 'Yerushalayim shel Ma'lah - celestial Jerusalem - is and will forever be Israel's capital. However, 'Yerushalayim shel Matah - mundane Jerusalem of daily life on the ground - poses extremely delicate and volatile foreign policy and national security challenges. These challenges cannot be addressed through heavy-handed Congressional declarations or legislation, and they cannot be resolved by the courts. They can only be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a peace agreement that delivers a two-state solution to the conflict."
"APN strongly believes that any action that threatens the ability of Israel and the Palestinians to resolve their conflict over Jerusalem jeopardizes a vital interest of Israel: a two-state solution. And if the door is closed on such a solution in Jerusalem, then the door is also closed on a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The amicus brief concerns a lawsuit filed by a Jerusalem-born American citizen, which seeks to force the Secretary of State to comply with a 2002 law seeking to compel the State Department to de facto recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed that the case should be dismissed because it presented a "political question," the petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case this fall. APN's brief supports the rulings of the lower courts, as well as the position of the Obama administration, that this case presents a nonjusticiable political question, one that is not fit for judicial resolution.