Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lebanon: no winners, only losers

For the twelfth time in a row, the parliamentary session to elect Lebanon’s new president has been postponed. The new session is now scheduled for Monday, January 21. That’s going to be fun for the commuters who will no doubt face frustrating long delays…unless they cancel yet another time.

The main reason for the failure is the old problem of the composition of the new government, to be exact, the number of seats allotted to the Opposition. Nothing new, there. Another reason contributing to the failure of Amr Moussa’s intervention, was described by Scarlett Haddad in the Orient-Le Jour newspaper this Saturday. It’s a good read and it reminds you of how small-minded politicians can be.

First, Hadded says, was the invitation of Michel Aoun extended towards Saad Hariri to discuss the Arab League proposal with him, Amr Moussa and a representative of March 14. Why Aoun and not the real power brokers Nasrallah and Berri, one might ask. The reason for this is that Aoun has been appointed the official negotiator of March 8. People who appreciate irony cannot help but smile about the image that Aoun is now officially representing Syria’s interest…anyway…

Hariri responded negatively to the proposal and wanted to expand the meeting with Jumblatt, Geagea and Gemayel from March 14 and with Berri and Nasrallah from the Opposition. This was no problem for Aoun, except for one addition: Suleiman Frangieh, an Opposition leader from north Lebanon should also join the meeting.

Aoun realized very well that the inclusion of Frangieh was unacceptable because every Lebanese knows that the Frangieh’s and the Gemayel’s don’t talk to each other. Somewhere in history, both families fell apart with one another and have been enemies ever since.

Frangieh is not known for his subtleties. Many will remember his statement last year about the patriarch who received the widows of Christian martyrs. Afterwards, the patriarch made a statement that was received as more in favor of the government than as the Opposition. In a reaction, Frangieh said that the patriarch “must have been excited by all the female beauty around him which prevented him from thinking clearly”.

Already, accusing the patriarch of not being in his right mind is provocative to say the least, but to add the suggestion that he got sexually aroused (the man is 85) by women all wearing black out of respect for their dead husbands, was really too much.

The reaction of Joyce Gemayel (wife Amin Gemayel and mother of the then recently killed Pierre, who also at the meeting with the patriarch) was historic. Addressing Suleiman Franjieh on national TV, she called out to him and said: “ya Suleiman, what are you doing. Is this the way Vera (his mother, RB) raised you? To speak about our religious leader like that. It hurts me to see the son of my good friend Vera acting like this…etc” (paraphrased).

As a result of Aoun’s adding of Frangieh to the suggested gathering, no direct meeting took place between March 14 and March 8. One can only wonder why the Opposition didn’t want to meet with March 14. They could have easily left Frangieh at home, but clearly March 8 was aiming to frustrate the talks.

And so, at the end of an intense visit and despite a huge series of meetings between Amr Moussa and pretty much everybody mentioned by the “Who’s Who in Lebanon”, no agreement was reached. For out-and-out optimist Moussa, this is actually great news as the Lebanese breakdown leaves even more room for solutions.


Ace said...

"only losers"

That's a big part of the problem. None of the 'opposition' is willing to accept loss. How can they accept it? Especially Nasrallah. He only accepts "divine victory" and anything less will probably be considered a "humiliation".

This is what he just said about "humiliation" on January 9:
Therefore, our motto for this year, 1429 of the hijra – that is 2008 A.D. – our motto in confronting all threats and intimidations: We will not accept humiliation...

There is no such thing as no loser in an election, and that's the problem. IF loss will not be accepted - what is left?

Riemer Brouwer said...

Couldn't agree more with you that Hezbollah has put himself in a position where loss is not acceptable. He reminds me of, was it Napoleon?, who once burned the bridges behind his forces so they couldn't retreat anymore. It sure motivated his soldiers to fight their way out.