March 15, 2004
Arab-American group lobbies Bush; outcome uncertain
A high-ranking delegation from the Arab-American community met with President George Bush at the Hilton Hotel in Houston [Texas] recently. This meeting is an outcome of efforts demonstrated by the Arab community [in the US] for greater influence in the presidential elections slated for later this year - to force more sympathy towards Arab and Palestinian issues amongst the competing candidates.
The delegation that included 24 members was headed by Nabil Arafat, head of the Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce. Among the members were Linda Sobeh, head of the Palestinian-American Congress, and Nidal Zayed, head of the Arab Media Center and editor-in-chief of the East-West newspaper. The delegation included many other prominent Arabs.
Arafat, who spoke to Al Bawaba earlier, said the delegation had asked President Bush, the Republican candidate for the upcoming elections, to apply more pressure on the Israel government to comply with the Road Map and to return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. The delegation had also asked President Bush to urge the Israeli government to build industrial zones inside the Gaza strip and West Bank to put to work hundreds of thousands of jobless Palestinians who depended on Israeli jobs for their wellbeing prior to the closures [of Palestinian-controlled territories]. Also among the requests was an appeal for foreign investment into the deteriorating economy of the Palestinian Authority in an attempt to restore most of the infrastructure that was damaged by the Israeli Army since September 2000.
According to Arafat, the delegation had emphasized several key points, including Israeli PM Sharon’s policy of ‘escalation and aggravation’ towards the Palestinians as well as more [US] tolerance towards Arab issues in America’s foreign policy.
“President Bush assured us that he will be putting a lot of effort into making the road map [to peace] and a Palestinian state a political reality…he also tried to assure us that he is a man of his word. This however does not mean will be voting for him as we have yet to meet the Democratic candidate [John Kerry] and hear his views on the matter,” said Arafat.
Arafat is also appealing to key Arab individuals in the US to form an Arab lobby similar to the very influential Jewish and Israeli ones. He did admit though that it would very hard at this time to match their [Jewish and Israeli] powers, however it would be a good starting point that is expected to gain more momentum as well as influence on future [incoming] administrations.
The Arab community in the United States is estimated to be five million strong. According to some experts, this community - which had largely voted for President Bush in the previous elections - tipped the scale in Bush’s favor in 2000. (Albawaba.com)