By Munir K. Nasser
President Clinton has announced that he has determined to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which requires the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 1999.
In a memorandum to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on June 19, Clinton said it is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States to suspend moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. In previous statements, Clinton said that such a move would jeopardize the final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over Jerusalem
Commenting on Clinton’s determination to suspend the embassy move, a State Department official told Albawaba.com that this has been the Clinton Administration policy for so long. “It is not meant to reflect on the current stage of what is happening in the peace process,” he said. “It is a natural extension of what’s our policy has been for a quite a while, until the final status issue of Jerusalem is resolved by the parties.
The State Department, who asked not to be identified, said that there is a link between moving the embassy to Jerusalem and what impact that would have on the peace process negotiations. “At this point, it is not the appropriate time to make this step, because if we did this we would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on this issue,” he noted.
Jim Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute said Congress “has created this act of incitement and provocation,” and the president has been dealing responsibly with it. He told Albawaba.com that the timing will send a signal to Congress. “Clinton meant to give a signal when the pushed for the delay years ago,” he explained. “Clinton said he would do nothing to compromise the US position in the negotiation process.”
Zogby believes the real battle in Congress will begin at the end of this extension period in December. He said when a new administration takes over, it has to make a determination on the embassy issue. “Al Gore said he will do nothing to compromise the process, and Bush said that he will start immediately on the process of moving the embassy. I would assume, if the peace process is not completed, nothing will be done, and the extension will continue, no matter who is president,” he predicted.
In a related matter, the State Department official denied press reports from Israel that a three-way summit at Camp David is planned for July 6. He told Albawaba.com it is premature to speculate on a summit. He stressed that at this point the Administration does not have any plans. “The President said the gaps are still wide between the parties, and that’s why Mr. Ross is going out Thursday and Secretary Albright will be following shortly, but no date has been set,” he said. He added that she would be able to make a determination on her trip whether the parties are ready to bring together at a summit.
The US official noted that it is clear that each side is having difficulty coming to agreement on some of the final status issues. He said President Clinton does not want to bring the parties together if he thinks the level of trust, confidence and the willingness to make the hard decision is low.
Commenting on the mounting pressures facing the Israeli and the Palestinian sides, the US official said both sides are under great pressure to cater to their constituencies. “Barak is coming under pressures from the protesting settlers who fear that they have been left out,” he said. “His wife came out two days ago and said she was afraid that her husband is going to be killed.” He stressed that if an agreement is going to be made with this Administration, they need to focus and make progress. “When they have to make these decisions, there has to be a sense of urgency to do that.”
Khalil Jahshan, Vice President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee believes the whole renewed interest in the peace process is done for purely American reasons. He told Albawaba.com that Clinton has been dreaming all along before leaving office that he would like to have a permanent status agreement in the Middle East. “I think he is very apprehensive and fully aware of the difficulties involved,” he said. “But at the same time he feels compelled to give it all he got at this time, but I am not optimistic that they will achieve anything.”
Jahshan said that he can’t see anything positive coming out of this process under pressure. He stressed that Clinton knows that Barak is sinking deeper and deeper into problems and that his time is limited as a Prime Minister. “They are trying to help him rescue himself from the internal predicament he is facing in Israel,” he pointed out. “So they are bringing the Palestinian side here somehow to pin them down on what they are willing to live with. What they are seeking is a third withdrawal and a framework agreement in lieu of a permanent status agreement, which was due May 1999. That is where the danger lies. I don’t think the Palestinian side can afford to turn the permanent status agreement into a permanent transitional agreement, where key issues remain unresolved indefinitely,” Jahshan commented.
Jim Zogby, however, disagrees with Jahshan that Clinton is doing it for purely American reasons.
He said that the Israelis want a summit, but the Administration does not see that the conditions are aright for it. “Clinton wants an agreement very badly because he invested a rather considerable portion of his administration to this issues,” he stressed. “If we go back in history, even Jimmy Carter, I don’t think that anyone has invested more time, more energy, and done more to make this process complete than this President. No one likes to leave a job undone.”
Zogby, however, puts the blame on the Israeli right wing for stalling the process. “There is clearly a will among some in Israel to make this work,” he said. “But there is also a significant body of resistance in Israel to any forward movement at this point. I think the US has some responsibilities here. Only the US and the pressure that it can apply can balance the pressure that is coming from the right wing. This is a group with murderous intent because they want to kill the process and they will use violence when necessary. Either the Israelis would confront these people with armed force, or the United States uses the political pressure necessary to isolate these extremists in Israel,” Zogby said.” – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )