President Trump has tweeted that the USA should "fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights" - directly contradicting United Nations Security Council Resolution 497 from 1981.

Can the President effect that "on their own" or would it need some act of Congress?

1 Answer 1


Essentially, yes

By current precedent from the US Supreme Court, the US president not only has authority to recognize foreign nations, but exclusive authority. The pertinent case is Zivotofsky v. Kerry, where a couple wanted to list the birthplace of their child as "Jerusalem, Israel." At that time the State Department of the United States did not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or in fact technically as part of Israel. Congress had passed a law allowing for precisely this case:

RECORD OF PLACE OF BIRTH AS ISRAEL FOR PASSPORT PURPOSES.—For purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.

When the case went to the Supreme Court, this portion of the law was found to be an unconstitutional restriction on the power of the President to recognize foreign nations, and the power of the president to do so was reaffirmed.

Held: 1. The President has the exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign. Pp. 6–26.

As such, it is within the US president's power to recognize the Golan Heights as being part of Israel, or not, without congressional support.

  • Can you quote the place in the constitution where this is stated (or implied)?
    – einpoklum
    Mar 25, 2019 at 17:46
  • 1
    @einpoklum - I'm not saying it's right, only that it's the Supreme Court ruling. They tend to be determinative in the US, I think.
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 25, 2019 at 18:02
  • @Oble2.0 : I'm not arguing, I'm just asking for their reference. Surely the ruling must have one, right?
    – einpoklum
    Mar 25, 2019 at 18:46
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    It's the bit that says “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers."
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 25, 2019 at 18:52
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    @einpoklum no, because it's not a ceremonial duty. It provides the President the authority to conduct the country's foreign affairs. Additionaly, and not covered by the answer, the Department of Foreign Affairs (now State) was established by Congress as an executive department, which also falls under the President in Article II, section 2, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution.
    – RWW
    Mar 25, 2019 at 20:45

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