Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stability must precede justice

Lebanon: Stability must precede justice
By: Ghassan Rubeiz / The Arab American News

With the assassination of Minister Pierre Amin Gemayel, Lebanon’s national unity has taken a long step backward. There is a background for this tragedy.

On November 11, a week-long series of heated meetings intended to strengthen opposition in a government of national unity failed. As a result, Hizbullah threatened to stage massive demonstrations after withdrawing its two ministers from the Cabinet and after successfully pressuring four other ministers to resign. People got anxious thinking of the civil war that ended in 1990 and the summer war of 2006.

Central to the conflict are the questions of Hizbullah’s future, General Michel Aoun’s presidential plans and the pursuit of justice for the murdered former Prime Minister Rafiq Harriri . Now add the murder of Gemayel.

Hizbullah remains a major source of tension in a country that has never used its national armed forces effectively. This “resistance” movement is not willing to lay down its arms in compliance with the recent U.N. cease-fire agreement.

The country’s conflict makes sad theater. Michel Aoun, a strong political leader, seeks to become the next president of the republic but he is rejected by the current anti-Syrian government; he is wooed by Hizbullah and he is opposed by the West.
The government plans to punish political murderers using a U.N.- mandated international tribunal that may implicate Syrian agents.
It is speculated that the Shi'a ministers withdrew from the cabinet to slow down the work of the U.N. tribunal. Hizbullah seems to consider the tribunal as foreign intervention, but outwardly it does not object to it.

The crisis of the government has two sides. In order of importance, the opposition includes Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement Party of Aoun, other secular parties and a Syrian-supported-marginalized President, Emile Lahood. Hizbullah represents the Shi'a community; Aoun is a secular Christian and President Lahood is a Catholic (Maronite).

Iran and Syria back up the opposition, oppose the pro-Hariri government and orchestrate a policy of challenge to the U.S. By demanding better representation in the government, the opposition argues for struggle against Western hegemony, for political reform and for fair representation for all communities. The opposition groups have about half the country behind them

On the government side, there are two powerful Sunnite leaders: Saad Harriri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. The parliamentary majority includes about two thirds of the Christian legislators and representatives of the Druze community, of which Walid Jumblat is currently the most vocal anti-Syrian figure. The Hariri family is very close to the Sunni minded Saudi Arabia and to the West.

Clearly, the tragic murder of Gemayel adds much fuel to the current political crisis and elevates the insecurity of the Christian population. Facing the cliff-hanging position of their government, national leaders must focus on Lebanon’s unity first. Justice is needed on the following list of political murders that have occurred over the last three decades: Pierre Gemayel, Rafiq Harriri, Basil Fuleihan, Gibran Tueini, Samir Kasseer, Rene Mouawad, Bashir Gemayel, Rashid Karami, and Kamal Jumblatt.

But is it realistic at this transitional political juncture to immerse an insecure government in the procedural technicalities of international justice, when a large segment of the population is weary of foreign intervention? Justice will remain elusive as long as Lebanon’s army is very weak, its politicians are not credible and its national unity is too tender. Justice is not achievable in a political environment of high national insecurity.

A national government should be formed immediately to establish political catharsis and a balanced agenda for the regime and its opponents. The pursuit of basic stability may have to take precedence over the pursuit of “justice,” a code word for demands of both sides of the domestic conflict. In this nation of a wounded society the government may have to appreciate its limitations and move step by step in priorities from national unity to national security to national social services to people’s confidence that naturally brings about criminal and social justice.

The author is an independent Arab American commentator. His blog is aldikkani.blogspot.com


Blogger Mike's America said...

What kind of stability will Lebanon have if the price for forming a national unity government is the delay, or termination of an international tribunal to assess responsibility for the mounting murder of anti-Syrian politicans?

Wouldn't that just validate the status quo where Syrian/Iranian agents and proxies continue to pick off their opponents one by one?

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