The Clinton administration has launched a full-court press to keep Democratic senators from signing on to a move to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The National Security Council began lobbying senators this week in an effort to kill legislation that would force the State Department to begin building the embassy before the end of 1996.
The ambassador would move in no later than May 31, 1999, according to the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Implementation Act of 1995, which was introduced Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
A one-page list of talking points prepared for Anthony Lake, President Clinton’s national security adviser, said this legislation “will have a devastating impact on the peace process.”
“It would likely lead to a breakdown of the negotiations and half the gains on normalization that Israel has been making in the Arab world,” it also said.
The legislation, while supported by many Jewish groups, has also generated concern among Israeli officials and peace activists. The concerns center on the timing of such a move.
NSC prepared the arguments, known as “talkers,” for conversations with Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N-Y), according to a copy obtained by JTA.
The effort failed to stop Inouye from co-sponsoring the measure.
In addition to Dole, Kyl and Inouye, other co-sponsors include Sens. Hank Brown (R-Colo.), Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Arlen Specter (R- Pa.)
“We’d be hurting Israel,” the talkers said. “We need your support to ensure that we aren’t faced with legislation on Jerusalem that undermines our efforts and, frankly, puts us out of business as a facilitator in moving the parties forward.”
In a meeting with Dole Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin refused to endorse the legislation but did not tell Dole that the move would hurt Israel, as the NSC claims.
“We are not going to be involved in domestic discussions,” Rabin told Dole, according to congressional aides.
“We welcome recognition of the fact that Jerusalem is our capital and we will welcome embassies that will come,” Rabin reportedly told Dole.
In response, Kyl accused the NSC of illegally lobbying Congress.
“They will not be able to keep people from signing this bill,” Kyl said in a brief interview off the Senate floor.
The Arizona senator, who has been in the forefront of the drive to move the embassy, called on the administration to tone down its rhetoric opposing the legislation.
“When the administration speaks, especially the NSC, it gives opponents of Israel more credibility,” the senator said. “This is not especially helpful.”