US Manual, Maps Updated: ‘Israel’ Is Now Place of Birth For Citizens Born in Golan

By Patrick Goodenough | April 18, 2019 | 4:45am EDT
(Photo by Getty Images)

( – A State Department manual was amended Wednesday to confirm that U.S. citizens born in the Golan Heights will now have “Israel” given as place of birth on their passports.

Prior to the change, the Foreign Affairs Manual instructed officials that the place of birth (POB) for Golan-born passport applicants was ‘Syria.”

“U.S. policy recognizes that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory, and that Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip are territories whose final status must be determined by negotiations,” the document had stated before the amendment. “The POB for applicants born in the Golan Heights is SYRIA.”

Now, the manual cites President Trump’s March 25 proclamation recognizing that the Golan Heights are part of Israel.

Unchanged in the manual, however, is that statement that “Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip are territories whose final status must be determined by negotiations.”

In the case of Jerusalem, therefore – despite Trump’s 2017 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital – the passports of U.S. citizens born there continue to give “Jerusalem,” not “Jerusalem, Israel” as POB.

The Foreign Affairs Manual states that “Israel” should be listed as place of birth in a passport “if and only if the applicant was born in Israel.”

“Do not list Israel for persons born in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the No Mans Land [sic] between the West Bank and Israel.”

(A legal challenge to the Jerusalem POB policy more than a decade ago eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a 6-3 decision in 2015 upheld the president’s exclusive power under the Constitution to recognize foreign nations and governments.)

Also this week, maps on government websites were changed to place the Golan Heights within Israel’s sovereign borders.

On his Twitter feed Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for Mideast peace negotiations, posted a copy of the updated map.

“Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after @POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he tweeted.

The map shows a change to Israel’s north-eastern border to incorporate the Golan Heights, a ridge about half the size of Rhode Island. The words “Golan Heights (Israeli occupied),” which appeared on earlier maps, have gone.

Still marked is a small segment of land to the east of the Golan which falls under supervision of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), established in 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Syria and Israel.

On Wednesday, the State Department’s Syria and Israel pages were updated with new maps, with Israel’s north-eastern border shifted eastwards.

The map of Israel included notes referring to other disputed territories, saying the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are to be determined through negotiation.

On Jerusalem, it notes that the U.S. in 2017 recognized Israeli sovereignty, but “without taking a position on the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty.”

(Early last year, the State Department changed the map of Israel to place a star next to Jerusalem indicating its status as the country’s capital. Prior to neither Tel Aviv nor any other city in Israel was marked with a star.)

Maps of Syria and Israel on the CIA World Factbook website were also altered this week to reflect the new Golan policy.

Elsewhere on the Factbook site, however, as of Wednesday the Golan was still referred to in several places as “Israeli-occupied,” and Israeli residents and communities there as “settlers” and “settlements.”

Before the Foreign Affairs Manual was updated, it was drawn to Greenblatt’s attention on Twitter that State Department materials still describe it as occupied territory. He acknowledged the policy changes would take time to be reflected across government publications and platforms.

“Following the Golan announcement @POTUS instructed all agencies to take action to implement his decision,” he tweeted. “It’s a large process to update everything. The USG is working on this but it takes time. As the saying goes, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’”

Israel captured the Golan during the Six Day War in 1967, before which time the Syrians had used it to launch artillery barrages aimed at Israeli communities in the Galilee valley below.

In his proclamation last month Trump said “unique circumstances” made it appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, including that history of aggression and today’s threats posed by the Assad regime’s close allies, Iran and Hezbollah, which he said “continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel.”

MRC Store