State Department is Boycotting Trump’s Jerusalem Policy
By Seth Lipsky
New York Post
December 14, 2017
Now that President
Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, what will the State
Department do? It resents Israel and has been fighting the Jewish state for
years. Is it ready to comply?
Don’t bet on it. That’s my advice.
Foggy Bottom is the worst swamp in Washington, haunted by
the ghost of Loy Henderson, the diplomat who tried to defeat the very idea of
He lost decisively 70 years ago, when the United Nations
voted to partition Palestine, clearing the way for a Jewish state. And, in May
1948, when President Harry Truman recognized Israel 11 minutes after it declared
independence. He overruled the vociferous objections of the State Department.
State has dragged its heels ever since. It has sought at
every turn not only to stymie Israel but to block any recognition of Jerusalem
as its capital.
Now the question to watch will be the case of a 15-year-old
American boy named Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002.
Congress wanted him — and all Americans born in Jerusalem
— to have the right to have their passport say they were born in Israel. (Now
it only says “Jerusalem.”) It passed a law saying so. The Senate was
Yet Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama refused to
comply. State Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were in the Senate that
passed the law without objection. Even so, they fought Israel in court.
Zivotofsky went to the Supreme Court twice in an effort to
get a properly worded passport. In the end, he lost, when the justices ruled
that Congress couldn’t force the president’s hand on matters of
It’s not that the president himself couldn’t give the
lad the passport Congress wanted him to have. It’s just that the matter was,
under the Constitution, entirely up to the president.
Enter Donald Trump. Finally we have a president prepared
to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And possibly even to begin
moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
His proclamation immediately raised the question of whether
our consular offices, which handle passports, would follow suit. Zivotofsky’s
lawyer thinks this should happen “automatically.”
The scrappy scribes who cover State sprang into action. On
Dec. 7, David Satterfield, acting assistant secretary for the Near East, fetched
up in the press room and Matt Lee of the Associated Press posed the first
“What is the capital of Israel?” he asked.
“The president,” Satterfield said, “announced
yesterday, issued a proclamation declaring the United States recognizes
Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.”
“So,” said Matt Lee, “the answer to the question is
Jerusalem — correct?”
“That’s exactly right,” said Satterfield.
“What country is Jerusalem in?” Lee asked. (He’s no
Satterfield paused just a bit. “The president recognized
Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel,” he dodged, showing an
“Does that mean then that the US government officially
recognizes that the Jerusalem municipality lies within the state of Israel?”
Lee followed up.
That’s when Satterfield announced that “there has been
no change in our policy with respect to consular practice or passport
In other words, young Zivotofsky can take a hike. Trump may
be president, Congress may be nearly unanimous, the Supreme Court may have
cleared the decks for the president.
None of it penetrates Foggy Bottom. Matt Lee of the AP kept
at it (the AP ought to give him a raise). Other reporters pitched in. It was
like mining bitcoin. Lot of work, nothing solid.
Nathan Lewin, Zivotofsky’s lawyer, calls in the latest
Jewish Press for the passport regulations regarding Jerusalem to be withdrawn.
He hints at another lawsuit.
Yet there could be an easier option, if President Trump
wants Zivotofsky to have an American passport saying he was born in Israel:
Trump could write it out himself by hand.
Trump — or an aide — could do this with a blank piece
of paper and a pen. He could invite young Zivotofsky to the White House for the
He could invite Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and do it
in the State Dining Room. But the more I think about it, there’s a better and
bipartisan place — the Truman balcony.