In modern political life, symbolic issues are often the most difficult to resolve. Nowhere is that more true than in international relationships, where passions often run hot, as with the ongoing dispute between Israelis and Palestinians over the legal status of Jerusalem. This debate is now playing itself out within the three branches of U.S. government, provoking a serious constitutional debate over separation of powers that next term will land in the lap of the United States Supreme Court.
Young Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, an American, was born in Jerusalem in 2002. Shortly thereafter, his parents requested that the U.S. State Department list Israel as his birthplace on his passport. Under long-standing State Department policy, Jerusalem is not regarded as part of either Israel or Palestine, but is treated as a neutral city whose ultimate status will be determined by negotiations between the two parties. Hence State Department policy requires that only Jerusalem be listed as the place of birth, without mention of Israel.