In a ruling Justice Antonin Scalia called “worthy of the Mad Hatter,” the Supreme Court decided Monday that Americans born in Israel’s capital will not be allowed to say they were born in Israel at all.
The 6-3 decision struck down a 2002 law requiring “Israel” to be listed as the nation of origin on the passports of Jerusalem-born Americans.
The ruling was based primarily on the opinion that only the executive branch, not Congress, has the power to recognize claims regarding sovereignty, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been considered a swing vote on the issue, and generally conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joined the liberals on the bench in the majority ruling.
The administration had long argued that the law would undermine America’s ability to broker peace between Israel and Palestine, by demonstrating that America was “taking sides” on the issue of Jerusalem’s sovereignty.
Scalia called that reasoning “a leap worthy of the Mad Hatter,” and critics of the policy say the omission of Israel on official documentation is an implicit rebuke of Israel’s longstanding policy.
Israel has released no formal response to the court’s ruling, but the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, had strong words for the Obama administration.
“Just as Washington is the capital of the U.S., London is the capital of England, and Paris is the capital of France, Jerusalem was and will always be the capital of Israel,” he said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “But more than that, it’s the heart and soul of the Jewish nation.”
Despite a reunification of the city following the Six Day War in 1967, Jerusalem’s status as an official part of Israel continues to be a controversial topic among supporters and critics of Israeli policy in the Middle East.
The policy of Obama’s administration, and many of his predecessors, has been seen by critics as one of appeasement.
The ruling means Obama’s administration will be allowed to continue the practice of not listing Israel on the passports of Americans born in the Jewish nation’s most important city.
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