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US Supreme Court invalidates 'born in Israel' passport law

Updated: 2015-06-09 09:58

WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court on Monday sided with US President Barack Obama and invalidated a law that would allow Congress to require the State Department to indicate on passports that Jerusalem is part of Israel.

In a 6-3 decision, the US top court ruled that Congress could not "aggrandize its power" over the Obama administration with a law that allows US citizens born in Jerusalem to list "Israel" as the birthplace on the passport.

Calling the Jerusalem's political standing one of the most sensitive issues in US foreign policy, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said while both the Congress and the executive branch of the administration have responsibility for foreign affairs, the president has the exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign.

In its submission of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2003 to the White House, Congress inserted a provision that instructed the State Department to "record the place of birth as Israel" on passports of Americans born in Jerusalem if their parents asked.

Former president George W. Bush signed the law, but said he would not follow it since it "impermissibly interferes with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs."

After the enactment of the law, parents of Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem, sued the State Department when their request to have Israel listed as place of birth was denied.

Monday's ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, as the politically charged passport case had long become part of a much larger proxy battle over who should control American foreign policy and whether the United States should take sides in simmering Middle East conflict.

No US president has recognized Israel to have sovereignty over Jerusalem and Obama had long wanted the law to be struck down.

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