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Israeli and U.S. flags are projected on the ramparts of Jerusalem's Old City, on Feb. 11, 2020.

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

The United States will allow Americans born in disputed Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth on passports and other documents, according to a new policy announced Thursday.

The move came a day after the United States amended science accords signed with Israel to apply to institutions in the occupied West Bank. The changes, enacted days before the U.S. election, appeared to be aimed at shoring up the support of evangelical Christians and other Israel backers.

President Donald Trump’s administration broke with decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and later moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv, where most other countries maintain their missions.

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Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war along with the West Bank, territories the Palestinians seek as part of their future state. Israel considers the entire city its “unified, eternal” capital while the Palestinians want their own capital in East Jerusalem.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the new passport policy was in keeping with the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem-born Americans will be able to specify either “Israel” or “Jerusalem” as their place of birth on passports and official documents.

Those who do not specify their place of birth will be listed as having been born in Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the move, calling it a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Trump has taken a series of unprecedented steps to support Israel and isolate the Palestinians. He released a plan to resolve the Middle East conflict in January that overwhelmingly favours Israel and was immediately rejected by the Palestinians.

The administration has succeeded, however, in improving ties between Israel and other Arab nations. In recent weeks the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan have agreed to normalize relations with Israel, giving Trump a string of foreign policy achievements ahead of the vote.

In return, the United Arab Emirates hopes to purchase advanced U.S. weapons, including stealth F-35 fighter jets, and Sudan will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, which will allow it to receive much-needed foreign aid.

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Israel said last week that it dropped its objections to the sale of advanced weapons to the UAE after the Pentagon provided assurances it would preserve Israel’s military edge in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted the agreement to establish ties with the UAE amounted to “peace for peace” and that arms deals were not part of it. But Emirati officials have indicated there were understandings on the matter, and President Donald Trump has said the U.S. was considering the Emirati request for the planes.

U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper visited Israel on Thursday and met with top Israeli officials.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who visited Washington last week, said he was “deeply appreciative of our dialogue, which has ensured that Israel now has the tools it needs to contend with destabilizing forces in the region.”

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