THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York)
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
Both houses of Congress today passed by overwhelming margins bills that require the relocation of our Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by 1999. The President opposed this legislation. He is convinced its passage at this sensitive time in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a mistake.
The President said, ?We have made more progress in less time on the Middle East peace process over the last two years than at any time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A step such as this could hinder the peace process. I will not let this happen, and will use the legislation's waiver authority to avoid damage to the peace process.?
The President's personal views on Jerusalem are a matter of public record and have not changed. His record of friendship and support for Israel is clear and of long standing. But he remains convinced that it is unwise for the United States to take actions that could be interpreted as prejudicing sensitive matters, such as Jerusalem, that the parties themselves have agreed should be decided in final status talks.
The legislation passed this week contradicts that principle. As such, the President would not have hesitated under different circumstances to veto it. But given the virtually unanimous votes by which these bills were adopted, exercising that option in this case would not alter the outcome; it would only prolong a divisive debate and risk further damage to the peace process.
The President will not, however, sign this legislation. To do so would be inconsistent with his pledge to take no action which would undermine a peace process that shows so much promise of creating a better future for Israel and its neighbors. Therefore, when the bills passed this week become law, the President will use their waiver provisions to prevent the legislation from adversely affecting the Middle East peace process.
The Clinton Administration will continue to be a strong and fair-minded partner in support of all those who take risks for peace. President Clinton will not allow the legislation passed this week to interfere with that role.