Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lebanon: Preconditions For Talks Lead Nowhere

This editorial was published in Daily Star on 5/11/2010

The middle of this week has not been kind to the constitutional institutions of Lebanon. The Cabinet failed Wednesday to meet for a scheduled session. Despite the official reasons that were given for the cancellation, we the Lebanese know that it was over a political impasse.

A session of National Dialogue at Baabda Palace Thursday was the second in the one-two punch. This time, a boycott by a group of March 8 figures was the obvious reason for the failure to hold a fruitful session, even to talk.

The past few weeks have seen the Lebanese government encounter weekly speed bumps over its ability to convene; there are serious doubts that either the Cabinet or the National Dialogue sessions will resume soon. This is despite the many demands from members of the public that politicians solve their problems and enable the country to move forward.

There are, naturally, dozens and dozens of pressing issues that require action by Lebanon’s political authorities, but the Lebanese have become used to seeing their interests sidelined by the inability of a segment of the political class to get its act together, and work out a compromise, or a modus vivendi.

When dialogue disappears, irrespective of how harsh the tone, and inflammatory the rhetoric, everyone is in trouble. This is the point at which the words of politicians disappear, and are replaced by the actions of people in the streets.

As is well known, in political terms, the “Lebanese street” is in a pitiful state. In the view of local analysts and experts, or their counterparts in the region and the rest of the world, this street is a powder keg – it’s open to all possibilities, and the Lebanese have seen the tiny flare-ups here and there over the past months.

It’s as if everyone has forgotten the lessons of 1975, when one side tried to neutralize the other by using extra-constitutional means. But why go this far back, in a country where political amnesia is rampant?

It’s as if the lessons of 2008, when a similar crisis led to a bloody breakdown in authority, have been completely forgotten.

Since these same politicians end up stoking these crises, and then agree on a compromise in the end, politicians could save the country a considerable amount of anxiety and harm, and get serious about finding a solution now, before it’s too late.

Setting preconditions on dialogue won’t lead anywhere – if politicians and officials truly want to bolster the state institutions, they must realize that placing conditions on the mere act of sitting down together will lead nowhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment