The Lebanese should not indulge in Hezbollah-induced fantasies

When Hezbollah fired rockets at two Israeli armoured vehicles in Avimim, it harmed above all Lebanon.
Saturday 07/09/2019
Supporters of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah movement react with clenched fists as they watch a speech by the movement's leader Hasan Nasrallah, September 2. (AFP)
Supporters of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah movement react with clenched fists as they watch a speech by the movement's leader Hasan Nasrallah, September 2. (AFP)

It might have been useful to have a meeting with a political and economic agenda in Baabda Palace, the headquarters of the Lebanese president. However, what would have been more useful would have been to be daring enough to call a spade a spade instead of escaping the dire realities facing the country.

There is a persistent blindness among the Lebanese as to the reasons the situation in Lebanon has deteriorated to the point of having sanctions imposed on it, such as sanctions placed against Jamal Trust Bank, which is a Lebanese bank holding deposits of Lebanese citizens and perhaps of non-Lebanese as well.

On this anniversary of the proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon 99 years ago, talking about Lebanon’s recent history is easy. What remains difficult is admitting reality instead of sugarcoating it with high-sounding slogans that Lebanon is supposed to have outgrown a long time ago.

This is all-the-more true because the country has suffered from the presence of illegal weapons for half a century. In the beginning, the illegal weapons were Palestinian, then they became militias’ until they turned into Iranian arms brought by the Syrian occupation to serve the objectives of a minority regime in Damascus.

Those who recently met at Baabda Palace could have looked at the many events showing that the real problem in Lebanon is Hezbollah’s weapons.

Hezbollah, which is only a brigade in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responded through southern Lebanon to an Israeli military strike targeting its members in Syria. Regardless of the Israeli agenda, which is closely linked to its September 17 elections that will determine the future of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “official” Lebanon was oblivious to what was happening on its territory.

The other side equally with an agenda is Iran and it wanted to prove that southern Lebanon is one of the cards it can play whenever and however it wants.

Could a meeting like the one in Baabda openly declare that Lebanon has its own agenda, that this agenda is totally different from the Israeli and the Iranian agendas and that Lebanon is keen on maintaining UN Security Council Resolution 1701 meant to halt “hostilities” between Israel and Hezbollah?

That seems to be the biggest challenge to such meetings, which, above all else, are required not to provide cover for any breach of Resolution 1701, despite vile Israeli practices. If what is required is protecting Lebanon and not fall into the Iranian trap, possessing and showing foresight becomes unavoidable.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri may have best expressed this far-sightedness during a recent visit to Washington, where he listened to US warnings of the dangers facing Lebanon and called for the development of Resolution 1701. He explicitly called for a transition from a “cessation of hostilities” to a full-fledged ceasefire so people in southern Lebanon, in particular, and in all of Lebanon, in general, could enjoy stability, rather than turning the entire country into an Iranian card.

In the absence of a willingness to confront Hezbollah with the negative role it is playing in Lebanon at every level, including in terms of changing the nature of the Shia community in Lebanon, a community that had been among the most open societies to modernity and progress in the region for a long time, there is no need for a meeting of any kind in Baabda or anywhere else for that matter.

The Lebanese Shia community has strong links to the interests of its members, who are spread throughout the world. So, what is the benefit to Hezbollah when it jeopardises the interests and safety of every Shia businessman in Lebanon and abroad?

This big talk about “resistance” is nothing but empty rhetoric intended to hide the real objective, which is the elimination of the institutions of the Lebanese state. There can be no recovery for a country or its economy when it is hostage to an armed sectarian militia serving a foreign power called Iran, which has major problems with the world, especially with the United States.

As long as there is no explicit and frank Lebanese official position regarding Hezbollah and its militia and there are those who say that “official” Lebanon cannot engage in any kind of frank dialogue with Hezbollah, meetings like the one in Baabda or anywhere else will be useless.

In fact, such meetings reveal the extent to which the situation of the Lebanese state has deteriorated. All the state could do was watch Hezbollah violate Resolution 1701, which,  until further notice, constitutes the only protection for Lebanon.

In the absence of the state’s ability to say enough is enough, to admit that the idea of striking a balance of military power with Israel is not realistic and that there is no such thing as a deterrent force called Hezbollah or “Hezbollah rockets,” forming an economic emergency body and the like would be useless.

Israel did not respond for its own reasons but what will happen tomorrow if the Jewish state finds it in its best interest to respond and that it is time to raise the issue of the precise missiles that Hezbollah claims to possess?

When Hezbollah fired rockets at two Israeli armoured vehicles in Avimim, near the Lebanese border, it harmed above all Lebanon, which constantly complains of Israeli violations of Resolution 1701.

Israel has preferred to pretend that what happened was a transient incident, with whatever that position implies in terms of weakening the Lebanese government’s position in its dealings with the international community. In fact, the international community is beginning to wonder if there is still a state in Lebanon, a state that exercises sovereignty over every square metre of its territory. Where does Lebanon stand in light of Iranian and Israeli agendas?