The Supreme Court of the United States has a crucial case at its door, as they usually do. But this time, the case I am referring to is not about health care, privacy law, or freedom of speech. The case I am referring to could change the U.S.-Israel relationship forever. Zivotofsky v. Kerry had its first arguments on November 3rd. This issue in the case is not simple, but I will boil it down for you.
In 2002 Manachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem. His parents are American citizens. They wanted his passport to display his birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel. As some of you may or may not know, the U.S. doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (which some of us might have an issue with already). The family requested the State Department to have their sons passport display Jerusalem, Israel under section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003. The State department refused and the family sued the secretary of state on their son’s behalf. The district court dismissed the case stating it was a non-justiciable political question (in English; the courts don’t want to get involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict by making anyone mad.) The case eventually reached the Supreme Court in Zivotofsky v. Clinton, which reversed the lower courts decision, and sent the case back down for the courts to decide the issue again, with their suggestions. The second time around, the district court said that section 214(d) interferes with the president’s exclusive power to recognize foreign states, and goes beyond congress’ passport power. Now the issue is before SCOTUS again.
I find a few things interesting about this case. First, and probably least important from a global impact perspective, the three SCOTUS judges who are Jewish will most likely vote against the Zivotofsky family (Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan). Personally, I think it’s a poor decision; Jews and non-Jews alike have always recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They are the more liberal justices, but party lines are blurry when it comes to Israel. A majority of republicans support Israel, and a good percentage of democrats do as well. While I disagree with what I predict will be their decision, it is a display of Professionalism to vote based on your interpretation of the constitution & not blindly follow based on religion.
Second and most importantly, this case could be a safety pin, in the crumbling American-Israeli relationship. Let me explain. America and Israeli relations during the current administration are at an all time low. No president (in my opinion) has displayed a blatant distaste for our strongest and most loyal ally in the entire world. Benjamin Netanyahu deserves a medal for putting up with John Kerry and the president. The administration has not supported Israel during the hardest times this past summer, and even in the current weeks. 11 Americans have been killed by Hamas in the last few months, and many more Israelis. And yet, the U.S. stays silent at the U.N. (which we fund), and allows Fatah & their allies to verbally assault Israel time and time again. I predict a new administration (no matter which party) will be more Israel friendly, and help Israel repair its image in the world. It seems like such a silly victory for Israel, but it is not. It has broader implications than some 12-year-old child having a cool passport birthplace. This case would essentially say, we recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, and they are here to stay. It says the Jewish people’s homeland is theirs and good administrations or bad, it is something that can never be taken away from them in the eyes of America. If the Zivotofsky loses, the decision will not have a drastic effect. The law will stay the same as it is, and everyone will go home. I hope they do not lose; we could all use a moral victory these days in the struggle against us.