WASHINGTON (Jun. 24)
The Arab world would regard the moving of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “the first step on the part of the United States” toward U.S. acceptance of the Israeli position on Jerusalem, Michael Armacost, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittees on Mideast Affairs and International Operations. Armacost was the last to testify in two days of hearings on the highly emotional issue last week.
The Administration strongly opposes the proposal and has been trying to get Congress to defer a vote on the proposed legislation to move the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until after the November elections. However, supporters of the legislation warned the Reagan Administration at hearings that they intend to force a House vote by early August.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D.Calif.), who originated the legislation in the House, and Rep. Daniel Mica, (D. Fla.) chairman of the International Operations Subcommittee, told Armcost that the bill most likely would be approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee in late July and by the full House in early August.
If the legislation passes, President Reagan will have two options — vetoing the legislation or ignoring it on the grounds that Congress lacks the constitutional power to mandate the location of embassies.
Armacost testified that moving the Embassy would compromise U.S. ability to act as impartial negotiator between Arabs and Israelis.” It is the wrong issue at the wrong time and the wrong way to move the peace process forward,” he stated. He pointed out that the Administration does not think the problem can be solved by various compromises that had been suggested, such as changing the legislation to a non-binding “sense-of-the Congress” resolution or bringing the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem under the control of the Embassy in Tel Aviv.