The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a press release on October 29th, announcing that U.S. citizens born in the city of Jerusalem would now be able to declare Israel as their country of birth on passports, a move that is to be effective immediately. Those who do not specify their preference will continue to be issued documents that list their place of birth as “Jerusalem.” This change in policy under the Trump administration would effectively echo President Donald Trump’s controversial statement in 2017 that “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”
Pompeo called this move “consistent” with Trump’s past statements, having ignored backlash from the international community as he insists that the administration remains “committed to a lasting peace agreement [between Israelis and Palestinians],” and that despite the policy change, the U.S. “continues to take no position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
Pompeo’s denial is unconvincing, however, as they have made their position clear by allowing a policy that conflates the city of Jerusalem to Israel. This seems to be a strategic move in the midst of the U.S. election to counteract Trump’s recent refusal to denounce white supremacists and his history of anti-semitism. Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city, the Trump administration is essentially ignoring the political and historical issue of Palestinian displacement and oppression.
Previously, Jerusalem has not been identified with a specific country by the U.S. government due to the conflict of Israelis and Palestinians having claimed the city in opposition to one another. In 1967, the ancient city of East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel, a move that was never internationally recognized, and its status has since remained one of the most heated issues over land ownership and rights. There is a general consensus in the international community that views East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory being occupied by Israel, with the opposition claiming Jewish rights to the Holy Land. Negotiations over Jerusalem have been on and off for over 25 years, having never panned out to an agreement.
American neutrality on the issue was broken when Trump came into office after decades of refraining from assigning the city to a specific country. After Israel’s creation in 1948, the country of birth on the passports of American citizens that was once listed as Palestine was changed to allow them to list only the city of Jerusalem. The recent change in policy so close to the U.S. election makes it clear that this is only meant to be a temporary political move in an attempt to gain the Jewish vote.
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