Barak Confirms Support for US Embassy Move

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told 12 visiting US congressmen today that he hopes the US will move its embassy to Jerusalem as soon as the presidential waiver of the Embassy Act expires. He said he supports the move of all embassies to Jerusalem, especially the US Embassy.

Earlier in the week, Barak came under fire because of reports that he had hinted to a pro-Israel lobby in Washington to back-off from pressuring the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Barak denied the report and said his comments had been taken out of context. Officials in the prime minister's office would not confirm or deny any such comments, but said that Israel and Washington's positions are clear so there's "no point in discussing it."

In June, President Bill Clinton exercised a presidential waiver for six months of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which called for the American Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A White House statement at the time said he had done so "in order to protect our critical national security interests, most crucially in preserving the prospects for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors."

The status of Jerusalem is to be discussed between Israel and the Palestinians in permanent status negotiations. The US statement said it did not want to "prejudge those negotiations" by "taking steps of its own."

Barak also told the congressmen, who are visiting Israel as the guests of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that the "united and bipartisan" support in the US Congress for Israel and the peace process is very important.

He stressed the vital role the US plays in the peace process by providing the "umbrella" and the strategic and economic "security net" for agreements.

Barak expressed to the congressmen his concern over the flow of nuclear technology to Iran and emphasized the necessity of Israel maintaining its military edge as the basis for peace agreements in the region and stability in the Middle East.