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Bill Clinton Administration: Statement on Legislation To Locate & Secure Release of Israeli Soldiers Missing in Action

(November 8, 1999)

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1175, "An Act to locate and secure the return of Zachary Baumel, a United States citizen, and other Israeli soldiers missing in action." I deeply sympathize with the families of the missing soldiers and have made the resolution of these cases a priority throughout my Administration. The United States remains determined to pursue every concrete lead to ascertain their fate. We will continue to consult closely with the families and the Government of Israel in our long effort to resolve this important issue. We will also continue to raise this issue with other governments in our search for answers.

I believe that two sections of the bill must be carefully construed to avoid constitutional and practical problems. Specifically, section 2(a) of the bill states that "the Secretary of State shall continue to raise the matter of Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman on an urgent basis with appropriate government officials" of certain foreign governments. To the extent that this provision can be read to direct the Secretary of State to take certain positions in communications with foreign governments, it interferes with my sole constitutional authority over the conduct of diplomatic negotiations. Therefore, this provision will be treated as precatory.

In addition, section 3 of the bill would require the Secretary of State to report to the Congress on efforts taken with regard to section 2(a) and additional information obtained about the individuals named in section 2(a). I sign this bill with the understanding that this section does not detract from my constitutional authority to withhold information relating to diplomatic communications or other national security information.

Section 3(b) of the bill would require the Secretary of State to report to the Congress not later than 15 days after receiving "any additional credible information" relating to the missing servicemen. Because there could well be a delay between the receipt of information and the determination that such information is "credible", I regard the 15-day period as commencing upon that determination.

William J. Clinton
The White House, November 8, 1999.

Sources: Public Papers of the President