WASHINGTON – You won’t find “Jerusalem, Israel,” on any U.S. government maps. Ditto for documents. And despite President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, you still won’t.
A day after Trump’s dramatic decision, much U.S. policy on the disputed holy city appeared largely unchanged. As a result, you can forget about seeing Jerusalem referred to as Israeli in any U.S. passport anytime soon.
Trump’s announcement may have infuriated the world, sparked violent Palestinian demonstrations and raised fears of unruly protests elsewhere. But he maintained that he didn’t take a position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or resolution of its contested borders.
The State Department backed up that assertion Thursday. It told The Associated Press it doesn’t plan to change several longstanding policies regarding Jerusalem that were carefully crafted to avoid offending one side or the other.
A look at what’s not changing:
THE U.S. EMBASSY
Trump has directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. That move won’t happen overnight.
The building will remain in Tel Aviv for the foreseeable future, U.S. officials say, adding that it’s unlikely any Jerusalem embassy will be opened before the end of Trump’s first term.
Although Trump ordered planning to begin immediately, officials say it will take a minimum of three to four years to design and build a new facility and then actually relocate the embassy.
In some cases, the process of moving an embassy takes even longer. Perhaps tellingly, Trump on Wednesday signed without fanfare a waiver to the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act that delays any move by another six months. Unless the law is changed, Trump will have to continue to sign waivers until the new facility is ready. Otherwise, the State Department risks losing significant funding.
Some pro-Israel groups had hoped Trump’s decision would herald a change in a long-standing U.S. policy that bars American citizens born in Jerusalem from recording “Israel” as their place of birth.
The State Department said Thursday it wouldn’t revise the policy, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015.
“At this time, there are no changes to our current practices regarding place of birth on Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and U.S. Passports,” the department said in response to a query from the AP.
Current policy holds that American citizens born in Jerusalem have only the city as their birthplace in their passports, unless they were born before Israel’s creation in 1948. In those cases, they can list “Palestine” as their birthplace.
The State Department says officials are looking at ways to identify Jerusalem as the capital, such as commonly used bold or underlined lettering or a star notation, on official maps but that they won’t be redrawn.
“The president is taking a specific step in affirming that the United States believes that Jerusalem has and will continue to serve as Israel’s capital,” the department told the AP. “The U.S. is not backing off efforts toward encouraging the parties to resolve their differences over final status issues in a comprehensive peace agreement. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”
It remained unclear Thursday whether the State Department or other federal agencies will alter their policy of not identifying Jerusalem within Israel in documents such as policy papers, travel announcements or transcripts of official events.
Previous administrations often struggled with the studied neutrality over the city, routinely making embarrassing corrections to documents identifying the city as “Jerusalem, Israel.”
Officials said Thursday no documents have been revised since Trump’s announcement, and no declaration of a new policy regarding government papers has been announced.