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Supreme Court orders judicial solution to Congress-State dispute on Jerusalem

Is Jerusalem part of Israel? In a case concerning a US citizen's birth certificate, the Supreme Court said a federal court should rule on an issue that has divided Congress and the State Department. 

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Federal courts are fully capable of resolving a bitter clash between the executive branch and Congress over the disputed status of Jerusalem, the US Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

The high court voted 8 to 1 to reject a decision by a federal appeals court in Washington that the highly emotional foreign policy dispute was best resolved by the political branches of government – rather than by unelected federal judges.

At issue in the case is whether Congress overstepped its authority when it passed a law instructing the US State Department to list Israel as the birthplace for American citizens born in Jerusalem.

The law is in direct conflict with a long-held State Department policy that the passports of Americans born in Jerusalem list the place of birth as simply “Jerusalem,” to avoid a false suggestion that US policy had changed concerning the disputed status of the city.

The lower courts had declined to wade into the diplomatic morass. But on Monday, the Supreme Court told the federal judiciary, in effect, to man-up.

“The courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect, or instead must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the executive by the Constitution,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 12-page majority opinion.

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