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Gore’s Embassy Stance Misinterpreted

October 30, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ Arab-American activist Terry Ahwal says she’ll feel more comfortable casting her vote for Al Gore after hearing his promise of inclusiveness at a private meeting. But the Gore campaign isn’t comfortable with everything Arab-Americans say they heard there.

For years, a major issue for American Jews and for Arab-Americans has been the location of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. Many Jews would like it moved to Jerusalem, solidifying their claim to the city as their capital. Arab-Americans want the embassy to remain in Tel Aviv.

Gore ``said as a president, as a vice president, he would not be willing to move the embassy to Jerusalem,″ said Ahwal, 43, from Canton. ``I am comfortable to say that he will get my vote.″

But what five religious and community leaders say they heard in Dearborn on the embassy issue Sunday is different from what the Gore campaign says is his position.

``Al Gore has had a very consistent position on this issue. What he said in Dearborn is exactly in line with what he has always said _ that is, that any decision about the U.S. Embassy in Israel must be resolved in the context of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,″ James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said in a statement released by the Gore campaign Monday.

Senior Gore aide Greg Simon, who was at the meeting, said Gore told the group something like: ``In some areas I have been criticized for not supporting those who want the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem now.″

The Bush campaign contended he had reversed his position.

``In a blatant display of pandering, Al Gore changed his position on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,″ said Bush aide Dan Bartlett. ``Al Gore is once again showing that he can’t be counted on to take a principled stand.″

Ira N. Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said it was Bush who ``has tried to have it every possible way on this issue.″

Sunday’s meeting, which included about two dozen people, came two weeks after the Arab American Political Action Committee endorsed Bush. There are an estimated 250,000-300,000 Arab-Americans living in the Detroit area, which could important with the race in Michigan apparently very close.

Abed Hammoud, president of the coalition that gave Bush the endorsement, said after the meeting that Gore ``set the record straight, so now we know where he stands.″

Hammoud quoted Gore as saying, ``If there was a time for Arab-Americans to have a full place at the table it’s now.″

``I wish we could have had this a long time ago,″ said Hammoud, who was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. ``It would have made my job as a Gore delegate much easier because this is good stuff.″

Gore said at the meeting that ``there is no conflict between being a friend to Israel and a friend to Arab-Americans,″ Hammoud said.

Zouher Abdel-Hak, a Dearborn jeweler who attended the meeting, said it had been a mistake to endorse Bush without hearing where Gore stood on the issues.

``We should have waited and listened to both sides carefully and decided basically on the issues,″ Abdel-Hak said. ``This is a very important year and our votes will count this time and we should get something in return for our support to any candidate.″

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