“The administration’s fundamental position is that if the State Department is required to comply with the statute, then there may be confusion about what President Obama’s position is on the state of Israel,” White explained.

Lawyers for the Obama administration compared Israel’s control of Jerusalem to Russian claims over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea during oral arguments this week before the Supreme Court in a case concerning the rights of U.S. citizens to list Jerusalem as part of Israel on their passports.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who is rumored to be in the running to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, drew the comparison on Monday while he attempted to convince the Supreme Court that Jerusalem is not officially part of Israel.

The controversial case hinges around Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002. Zivotofsky’s parents requested that Menachem’s U.S. passport bear “Jerusalem, Israel” as his place of birth, a request that was denied by the Obama administration on the basis of its longstanding policy to not recognize the holy city as part of Israel.

The Zivotofsky family sued following the decision and the case has been stuck in judicial limbo since. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and initial arguments by both sides were presented this week.

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