President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel won’t be reflected on State Department documents, including passports, officials confirmed Thursday.
“There has been no change in our policy with respect to consular practice or passport issuance at this time,” David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters Thursday.
That means for a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem, their passport won't say they were born in "Jerusalem, Israel," and instead will continue to just say "Jerusalem." Government maps also won't recognize Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
That’s one way in which the State Department is maintaining the long-standing status quo for U.S. policy towards Israel, even after Trump announced American recognition of the capital in a landmark address Thursday. The passport issue reflects how the Trump administration is trying to implement the policy change without hurting future negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, who have disputed Israeli control of the ancient city since 1967.
“We recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Jerusalem, but we are not changing or taking a position on the boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem, including geographic boundaries,” Satterfield said.
Israel has held East Jerusalem since the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel launched an attack after Egypt had mobilized forces on its border in the Sinai Peninsula. At the end of the short conflict, the superior Israeli military had taken the peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egyptian control, as well as the strategically significant Golan Heights, which overlook Jerusalem but had been held by Syria, and the West Bank, previously in Jordanian hands.
Trump’s allies emphasized that his announcement would not predetermine the outcome of any future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who have long been regarded as likely to make East Jerusalem the capital of their state in a final agreement.
“All of Israel’s government offices are largely in Jerusalem already, so the U.S. is just recognizing the reality of that,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday between diplomatic meetings in Austria. “We’ve very committed to a peace process still. It’s what I know the whole world wants and we still believe there is an opportunity for peace.”
That balancing act left the State Department unable to answer some simple questions, however. “When President Trump visited the Middle East and he went to the Western Wall and he prayed, what country was he in?” one reporter asked.
“I’m sure you think this is all very cute,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, as some reporters chuckled at the question. “We’re not taking a position on the overall boundaries. We are recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”