- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Arab-American anguish

Arab-Americans are growing disenchanted with President Bush, after a majority voted for him over Al Gore.
"They're disappointed. There was a real expectation about what George W. Bush would do," said James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.
Arab-Americans who supported Mr. Bush hoped he would endorse a Middle East policy that was more favorable toward the Palestinians, Mr. Zogby told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.
They felt Mr. Gore was too pro-Israeli, he said.
Forty-four percent voted for Mr. Bush, while 38 percent voted for Mr. Gore, he said.
Mr. Zogby said he is disheartened that Mr. Bush appears determined to be less engaged that the Clinton administration and leave Middle East negotiations to the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on the foundation of a peace pact.
"It can't be left to the parties. It is like a bad marriage of 30 years," said Mr. Zogby, whose organization is one of the largest Arab-American groups in the United States.
"The U.S. has to present the parameters of a deal and sell it [to the Israeli and Palestinian public]," he said.
"This current situation will not get better with time … only worse."
Many Israelis believed the Clinton administration pushed former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to make too many concessions to the Palestinians, who nevertheless demanded more and took to the streets.
Arabs saw it differently.
"The U.S. is engaged about as far as it can be engaged on one side," Mr. Zogby said, referring to U.S. support for Israel.
Palestinians, he said, are "poorer and have less freedom of movement and less hope" than they did before 1993, when Mr. Clinton hosted a White House ceremony between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to sign the Oslo accords.
Now, even Mr. Zogby's organization is losing hope, as violence increases daily.
"It is very difficult to see how you can make any impact at this point," he said.

Made in Lithuania

Lithuania's new ambassador made a quick trip to Washington last year for high-level meetings with members of the Clinton administration. But his luggage got lost on the flight.
On his way to the State Department, Vygaudas Usackas told his driver to stop at the nearest clothing store. He ran in and bought the first navy-blue blazer that fit him.
His meeting with former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott went fine, and he later had time to relax. He took off his coat and smiled. The label read "Made in Lithuania."
Trade between the Baltic nation and the United States has grown to $370 million a year, making America one of Lithuania's important markets.
However, more than trade, Mr. Usackas' primary goal as ambassador is to win U.S. public support for Lithuania's membership in NATO.
When Mr. Usackas presented his credentials to President Bush last month, he made a pitch for NATO membership. Mr. Bush expressed support for a further expansion of the alliance but did not endorse specific candidates.
Lithuania is among nine nations seeking membership in the next round of NATO expansion.
"What we see of the first signs of the new administration are positive ones," Mr. Usackas told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.
In addition, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jesse Helms and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert have endorsed Lithuanian membership, the ambassador said.
However, Mr. Usackas knows that the White House is the key.
"When I met Mr. Bush, I told him that without his leadership, one can hardly anticipate a positive outcome for NATO enlargement and more specifically for Lithuania," he said.
He replied that Lithuania has achieved "freedom and democracy and has many friends in the United States," Mr. Usackas said.
At least he made an impression at the White House.
Mr. Usackas gave Mr. Bush a personalized jersey from the Lithuanian national basketball team. Basketball is one of the country's favorite sports.
He also gave Mr. Bush a Lithuanian baseball bat, an appropriate gift for the former owner of the Texas Rangers.

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