Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lebanon: No Need For Shyness

By Husam Itani
This comment was published in al-Hayat on 12/11/2010
There is a prevailing opinion among some of the Lebanese, saying that the issue of false witnesses and the international tribunal for Lebanon are not the reason behind the growing tensions and the predicament reached by political life as Lebanon is getting closer to utter governmental paralysis.

Reading into the events ever since the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri reveals that a drastic change has affected Hezbollah’s positions since the July 2006 war. The aforementioned change pertains to Hezbollah’s behavior and opinion, whether in regard to the special tribunal looking into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, or the assessment of powers and parties based on what it describes as being an attempt to stab it in the back during the Israeli aggression.

However, these opinions and positions are growing increasingly stringent in parallel with the enhancement of the party’s military capabilities and the expansion of its popular base, noting that the two phenomenas' concurrence does not require any proof.

In the moment of truth represented by the July war, the party felt that many sides on the domestic arena were biased against it, while prominent Arab countries were condemning the “adventure” in which it had embarked through the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, thus granting Israel a pretext to launch war. The party exited the fight stronger than it was in its beginning, and on all levels.

Still, the ways to invest the steadfastness that was seen (regardless of the unproductive dispute over the victory or the defeat during this war) were obstructed by the balances of the Lebanese arena. Indeed, in light of the sectarian division of the authority and the allocation of its spoils and gains, which the Lebanese reapproved in the Taif agreement, there is no way for any party to increase its share except at the expense of the other sects altogether.

Therefore, we can say today that the feeling of being under threat, in addition to the inability to improve the domestic status, is the reason why Hezbollah has turned toward the Lebanese arena and why it has staged some of the largest demonstrations seen in Lebanon in protest against the government of former Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora. Moreover, the tense regional climate between the rejectionist and moderate axes in the area was naturally part of the latter list of reasons. Nonetheless, what made the party and its allies stage a sit-in in downtown Beirut for around a year and a half had nothing to do with the false witnesses, considering that the party’s protests against the international tribunal were low-key and revolved around organizational matters and details. Actually, its requests focused on the protection of the arms of the resistance and the resignation of Al-Siniora, while carrying a list of livelihood and developmental demands, which seemed to be reaped out of their context.

The May 7, 2008 attack then occurred “in defense of the arms of the resistance.” Afterwards, journalistic information and political leaks started emerging in regard to the preparations to accuse the party and leaders in it of being implicated in the assassination of Al-Hariri, thus launching a new wave of tensions in the country.

Therefore, after the political crisis entered a new stage and caused the governmental paralysis, it was justified to believe that the false witnesses issue, the arms of the resistance and the defense strategy were mere symptoms for one illness: the Lebanese regime’s inability to contain a force of the size of Hezbollah and grant it the prerogatives that it believes to rightfully belong to it. The problem increased with the party’s use of pretexts – the majority of which were weak – to announce its wish to expand its influence base within the state.

Instead of putting things forward openly and clearly and trying to amend the system in a constitutional way, Hezbollah is resorting to pompous expressions. In the meantime, the handling of the crisis can be summarized with the party’s relinquishing of its shyness and its clear announcement of its need for additional power, so that this can seriously be discussed with the different sides. Any other handling of the situation will maintain Lebanon in a vicious circle of coded and encrypted accusations, saying things that are different than what is actually implied.

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