JERUSALEM -- American officials in Israel warned Wednesday that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be viewed 'as very negative' by West Bank Arabs living under Israeli occupation.
Asked if there had been dismay expressed about a bill proposed in Congress by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the officials replied:
'Oh, yes, we've had complaints from all over the world,' adding that a move would be viewed as a further U.S. tilt toward Israel.
'It would be seen as a major change in U.S. policy and would be seen on the West Bank in a very negative' way.
It was clear the officials, who spoke to reporters on condition they not be identified, had checked their words with the State Department in Washington, where Moynihan's bill has become a major issue.
The Reagan administration has said it would not go along with moving the embassy but Democratic presidential contenders Walter Mondale and Gary Hart have come out in favor of the transfer.
Theodore R. Mann, of Philadelphia, president of the American Jewish Congress, bitterly criticized the presence of the embassy in Tel Aviv.
He said it was 'intolerable' that under the present situation, Jerusalem is not regarded as the capital of Israel by the United States but might be regarded as the capital of the West Bank.
'We are very deeply offended by this as Americans,' Mann said at a news conference. 'It suggests that those who want a PLO state on the West Bank, there is room in American policy for that to happen.'
The present U.S. Embassy in Israel has been in Tel Aviv since the state of Israel was declared in 1948. The U.S. consulate, which is independent from the embassy, has been in Jerusalem since 1844 during the Ottoman Empire.
The consulate district includes Jerusalem and the West Bank. It maintains two buildings, one in Jewish West Jerusalem and one in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem.
Israel unilaterally declared the united city of Jerusalem its capital in 1981. Official U.S. policy says the status of Jerusalem is in doubt.
The activities of the consulate, headed by Consul General Wat T. Cluverius IV, on the West Bank provide the United States with valuable contacts with the Palestinian residents of the area.
The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Sunday there were complaints the consulate was 'pro-Arab and even pro-PLO' in its activities, but Cluverius responded sharply to that charge.
'The accusation that the consul general pursues anything other than U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is ridiculous,' Cluverius said.