A Lebanese Abroad

Opinions from an opinionated Lebanese abroad about Lebanon's politics, business and the future of a United Lebanon.

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

South Lebanon vs. South Africa

In regards to the Lebanese SLA members still in exile in Israel, it’s interesting to note that when the Apartheid ended in South Africa, they set-up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a court-like process which basically decided whether to grant amnesty to those that committed crimes and tortures during that period on condition that they tell the whole truth, i.e. by fully disclosing what they knew and what they did in front of witnesses and families of the victims. Some were granted amnesty and some were not.

So, in defense of the ex-SLA members and in the spirit of complete and full reconciliation, I don’t see why Lebanon wouldn’t be able to adopt a conciliatory process to repatriate these Lebanese people to their homeland.

During the war, each group was acting according to their best convictions, namely that what they fought and believed in was the right thing. So, any and all groups are as guilty or innocent as the other, as long as the same rules apply to all.

Hezbullah’s arguments against the ex-SLA members do not hold water. These arguments may have some credence only under the assumption that peace with Israel will never be realized (something that Hezbullah would dearly like us all to believe).

But the reality is that peace will have to be negotiated and signed with Israel, sooner, as opposed to later. Therefore, why not apply the amnesty now, without prejudice?

Hezbullah wants their cake and they want to eat it too. They want Lebanon to be in a permanent state of war, therefore in a permanent state of risk, and hence be a less desirable place to attract foreign investment which is necessary for the economic prosperity of the country.

If there is any group that is currently holding Lebanon from real progress, it’s Hezbollah, their arms, their policy and their blackmailing the system. They are holding the (weak) Lebanese government hostage and playing Syria’s card which is- no peace with Israel til infinity. Syria’s recent statement about reviving the Beirut Saudi plan for peace is a pretty uninspiring starting point. Even the Saudis didn’t follow-up on it. It's a typical Syrian way of throwing mediocre arguments just to see if they'll stick.

Lebanon is Still the Same...

...and so are MOST of its political leaders, even some of the newly elected ones.

Prior to February 14th, I used to occasionally read l'Orient or The Daily Star to check-up on the evolving state of the homeland, only to be often disappointed, disgusted and stunned in disbelief as to some of the absurdities uttered by the local politicians and the on-going vicious circles they live in. With the advent of the post-Hariri assassination Spring 2005/Cedar Revolution era, we were given hope and a sense of renewal, given the possibility that new elections and non-Syrian intervention would bring about change and usher Lebanon into a new era of prosperity, normalcy and long overdue evolution towards a modern, vibrant and economically strong country.

The formation of the current government and the events of the last few weeks and days have shown that Lebanon is still very much the same. Although some fresh figures are giving us hope and straight-talking to us (Aoun, Tueni primarily...but pls give me more names and examples), the scene is dominated by opposing forces, each pulling Lebanon in a different direction.

- Hezbollah. We know what they don't want: they don't want to end the resistance, they don't want to surrender their arms, they will not accept any withdrawal from any occupied land in return for any deal, they will not accept U.S. aid to Lebanon and they don't acknowledge UN Resolution 1559. But what do they want? Hezbollah has their own agenda. In essence, they have indefinitely hijacked the country's political system and forcing it to remain into a dangerous stagnation.

- Lahoud and his cronies are still thorns in the system; they often praise the "resistance", sometimes seemingly side with Aoun, sometimes push their own agenda, but despite of their pro-Syrian past were totally powerless in dealing with Syria on key issues that surfaced recently.

- Jumblatt is the ultimate rotating device that swings with the wind, but often is more confusing than enlightening- therefore a big negative.

- Hariri has proven his inexperience and immaturity, judging by how he got manipulated by Jumblatt or blackmailed by Hezbollah, and how he is back-peddling now on the Hezbullah issue; in reference to his CNN interview where he adopted the typical Lebanese low standards "we need to deal with each issue one a time". He is really a figure head, represented by Seniora who had to compromise to the hill to give birth to a mediocre cabinet.

- Amal and the Lebanese Forces are practically insignificant players on their own. Amal is really about the Berri persona, and the LF's role will depend on Geagea's demeanor.

- Aoun and the Future Movement are still the most honest political players. Aoun will not bought, sold or blackmailed. Unfortunately, he is the victim of a smear campaign by his opponents. He is still widely misunderstood by them, but slowly will gain new supporters. His place in the opposition is perfect, as he will call every bluff and every absurdity by its very name.

So this is how I see "poor Lebanon". It's a tragedy and a comedy at the same time. To those that think that the current situation is better than before, I would say: You probably have pretty low standards.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

If Syria Really Wanted Lebanon's Interests...

If Syria was really sincere about "brotherly" relations with Lebanon that respect Lebanon's interests, then:

- Why does the Syrian Prime Minister openly say that "disarming Hezbollah will threaten the national security of Syria"?

- Why did Syria block the border without initiating negotiations or attempting for pro-active talks in good faith?

- Why did they arrest Lebanese fishermen while Syrian fishermen continuously violate Lebanese waters?

- Why are they demanding compensations for alledged deaths of 35 Syrian workers, while thousands of innocent Lebanese either were killed or are rotting in Syrian jails?

Syria's double-talk is increasingly exposing their real intentions, day after day. It is clear that Syria wants to harm Lebanon, but why are our politicians still calling for best relations with Syria while Syria is litterally mocking us?

Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud yesterday underlined commitment to principles and stances Lebanese people had consensus on, on top of which is backing resistance and holding best ties with Syria.

Hammoud, during a ceremony to hand over the Foreign Ministry portfolio to new Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, said Syria and Lebanon are determined to cooperate in the face of different threats and to achieve both states' aspirations.

I sure hope Salloukh wasn't listening to Hammoud's idiocies.

And who is going to believe this:
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa stressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's keenness for boosting and strengthening the Syrian-Lebanese relations during a recent meeting with him.

from someone who is basically telling the Iraqi people to keep killing themselves by resisting the Americans, hence supporting the insurgents:
Moussa described the current situation in the Iraqi scene as a very chaotic and dangerous, calling upon all the Arabs to support the Iraqi people and not to leave it alone under foreign occupation.

It is obvious and clear that Lebanon will never have a real democracy as long as Syria has an autocracy. It's time to call a spade a spade. Enough double-talk and lip service designed to fool people with low IQ.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

3 Types of Bombings: 3 Sources of Crime?

With the latest Monot blast, it is clear that there are 3 types of classifications for the latest terror events in Lebanon:

1) Big bang, no collateral damage spared. These are the huge blasts (over 100 kgs) that are designed to kill someone in a motorcade and around a large radius. Targets: Hariri, Hamade, Murr.
2) Precision car seat bomb. These are remotely detonated at line of sight. They wait until the occupant is in the car and detonate the bomb that was placed under the seat. Targets: Kassir, Hawi.
3) Random blasts, random damage. Designed to scare and damage infrastructure more than to kill people. These are the blasts we saw in Kaslik, Broumana, Jounieh, Jdeide, Monot. Targets: terrorize Christian neighborhoods.

Could it be that there are 3 distinct groups perpetrating these acts, or is it the same group using different means to justify each purpose?

One of the common denominator to these targets is that they all represent Lebanese SYMBOLS. Lebanon’s enemies are after our symbols:

Hariri: Symbol of power, money, fame, international respect, new Lebanon.
Hamade: Symbol of early anti-Syrian resistance.
Murr: Pro-Syrian symbol, but was probably was on the verge of deserting them.
Kassir: Symbol of intellectual freedom, and early anti-Syrian.
Hawi: Symbol of surviving political diversity, and early anti-Syrian.
Christian neighborhoods: Symbols of Western influences and traditional Lebanese history.

These attacks are designed to destroy Lebanon at its core by getting rid of its important symbols. To counter these attacks (which will probably continue), the Lebanese must become more united at the core.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Backlash: Changing Lahoud & Lebanese Unity

Having had time to digest and reflect on the Murr assassination attempt, I am reaching the conclusion that like other explosions, the intent of the perpetrators are actually being met by a reverse backlash that is totally different from originally intended.

Intent: The Murr assassination attempt was probably a message to Lahoud not to soften his pro-Syrian stance. Recently, Lahoud had been somehow “neutralized” by the massive opposition and public opinion wins. Perhaps the Syrians thought that he had gone too far in beginning to make compromises with the opposition, and gave him a warning by targeting his family.

Backlash: Lahoud could suddenly and officially “switch sides”, do a "mea culpa", testify against Syria by releasing evidence he may have,- basically plea bargaining.

Intent: This was an attempt to further divide the Lebanese by accelerating finger pointing against each other, polarizing the political tensions and even delay the government formation. Saniora put it succinctly by saying that “blaming each other creates an opportunity for the aggressors to continue these acts”.

Backlash: The Lebanese seem to be actually uniting instead of drifting apart. Every single politician that visited Murr or said something about this event had a conciliatory tone, underlying unity and the preservation of national interests, while none of them directly accused Syria. I am not sure if they in turn are fearing for their lives now, or whether they are coming to the realization that “united, we could fight this better than divided”.

These aggressors are underestimating the counter backlash effect which is much stronger than the results they were trying to achieve. Although they killed Hariri, the country has further united and Syria is out. And although they are trying to divide us, we seem to be closing ranks.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Cross-Border Trade with Syria: The Plot Thickens

While we are being entertained by the government sausage-making like formation, cross-border trade between Lebanon and Syria is taking it on the chin. The timing of Syria’s actions were unexplainable as I posted in this previous blog.

New developments today point to a news release by the Syrian Finance Minister, with shocking statements, attributing the slow down to a “normal during summer times”. Instead, the Minister extolled the fact that Lebanon’s exports to Syria ($85 million) surpassed for the first time Syrian imports to Lebanon ($60 million) during the first half of 2005. He obviously wasn’t counting the many more millions in Syrian goods that are smuggled from Syria into Lebanon and flood the market at below-market prices. And he didn't mention that between 1997-2004, Syrian exports to Lebanon dominated trade with Lebanon: 93% in 1997 to 63% in 2004.

Meanwhile, Lebanese trucks are still lining-up at the border, amidst eyewitness reports reported by this Al-Jazeera/AFP story:

"I have never seen anything like this in decades," said Hassun, a taxi driver who makes a living transporting passengers between the Lebanese and Syrian capitals.
"Usually it is easy to cross the Syrian border post at Jdeide but the past few weeks it has been infernal," said Hassun after spending 45 minutes stuck at a Syrian military roadblock near the border.
"They interrogated us, searched the car and the passengers and confiscated some consumer goods. The people are fed up," Hassun said.
The same article reports of the actual state of Syrian-Lebanese trade:
In May, days after Syria completed its pullout from Lebanon, Miqati travelled to Damascus to discuss future ties, including pending economic agreements, and later said a border post would also be established to ease travel and trade.
But results from the visit have yet to be seen.
An agreement under which Syria was expected to supply Lebanon with natural gas has also been shelved.
It stipulated that Syria would sell Lebanon 1.5 million cubic metres (52.9 million cubic feet) of gas a day at three dollars per unit "or 40 percent cheaper than market prices", Lebanese Energy Minister Bassem Yammine said.
"But the Syrians have told us that this offer is no longer valid," after Lebanon said it wanted to renegotiate all its agreements with Damascus, Yammine said, adding that discussions were still underway.
If this isn’t a crisis, I am not sure what is. This certainly calls for the re-evaluation of Syrian economic relations. Syria’s timing is very coy and a low blow to Lebanon while the country is in the midst of the most diligent and transparent government-making in its recent history.

As Michael Young succinctly puts it in his last editorial: “It is unlikely the current Syrian regime could ever address Lebanon as an equal; for the men in Damascus, there is little room for a bona fide partnership in the shadow of the demeaning Syrian practices of the past.”

Hopefully, Lebanon will be able to stand on its own feet soon and deal with Syria from a position of strength. All we want is fair trade and fair trade pactices. In the past, this was difficult to even ask for, but now that Lebanon has the autonomy to ask, will we get it?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Syria halting Lebanese trucks at border: Why now?

The timing of this border dispute seems quite ill, given that the Lebanese government is "in limbo", i.e. being constituted. I don't have any further information on this, except from this story which has also been reported on Lebanese television. There is nothing I could find from the Syrian side explaining why this is being done.
From the above article:

Hundreds of trucks carrying tons of perishable goods are still queuing up at the Syrian checkpoint along the border, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Lebanese families.

Observers said that Syria apparently wants to demonstrate to the Lebanese that the anti-Syrian sentiments following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon will not go unnoticed.

Syria is the only land outlet for Lebanese-made goods to the outside world.

"Syrian authorities are reluctant to facilitate the movement of Lebanese trucks," one trader said, adding that many of the tuck drivers are forced to throw away tons of fruits and vegetables on the road after spending days waiting near the checkpoint.

Lebanese trucks are spending between four and five days at the Syrian checkpoint while Syrian trucks crossing to Lebanon are cleared in less an hour, according to merchants.

Lebanon and Syrian signed a free-trade agreement more than five years ago but Lebanese traders and farmers complained that the Syrians never respected the agreement.

Lebanese farmers were also furious at Syrian smuggling into Lebanon, flooding the local market with cheap agricultural products.

In 1997 the volume of bilateral trade between both countries stood at $76.8 million, for which Syrian exports to Lebanon accounted for 92.7 percent.

As more agreements were signed, Lebanon gradually began tipping the trade balance in its favor. In 2000, for example, bilateral trade volume stood at $190.1 million, with Syrian exports making up 87.8 percent. By 2003, trade volume stood at $277.2 million, but Syria's share of the pie had slipped to 74 percent. In the first half of 2004, total trade volume stood at $136.95 million, of which Syrian trade accounted for only 63 percent.

Is this fair? Is this how Syria plans to deal with Lebanon, i.e. by hurting us, instead of co-operating with us?

I am curious about the opinion of others, especially if there are specific legitimate reasons for halting Lebanese trucks passing through Syria.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Polarization of Lebanese Politics

After Rafik Hariri’s assassination and the Elections, the country was supposed to come closer together. Instead, we seem to be drifting apart. Each major religious sect (Maronite, Sunni, Chia’) seems to be clinging away at their own key post, without due respect for the opinion or votes of others.

I don’t recall in recent memory that the processes for selecting or supporting the Prime Minister/Government members, Speaker of the Parliament and President were as polarized as they are today.

I have several questions, but no satisfying answers.

Under the auspices of the Hariri/Jumblatt majority alliance, the Future Movement is the new Sunni pride and is deciding Lebanon's future via its distribution of ministerial portfolios. Little is done in terms of checks and balances due to the President's passive role, a result of his recent political isolation.

Of course, Berri’s nomination was shoved down the Parliament because he was the Chia’s choice, so no one could argue it.

And a majority of Maronites have lately rallied around President Lahoud now because he too symbolizes their religion.

What were the factors that lead us to such polarization?

- Was it Patriarch Sfeir who started with his remarks that only 15% of Christians could select their leaders under the current election law?
- Was it Saad Hariri who is monopolizing his father’s assassination, i.e. assuming carte blanche because Lebanon “owes” him that much?
- Was it the Chia’ voice which is amplified by Hezbollah’s arms that see the Speaker’s position as their only protection?
I sense there is even mistrust between Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Hariri’s Future Movement members relating to a simple event such as the Aoun-Hariri break-down. While both leaders took great pain to express their mutual respect for each other and left the door open for future co-operation, partisans of each party saw it differently. On one side you heard: “Hariri walked into Aoun’s trap”. And the other side claimed that “Aoun walked into Hariri’s trap”. The level of mistrust is indeed alarming.

Why can’t the Prime Minister, Speaker and President represent “national democratic choices” instead of being “chosen” by their own religious groups without respect for the others except for make-believe agreements?

The current political process discourages the rise of a real national political leader that is mutually respected by all sects, religions and regions, because as soon as one person starts to become popular across religions and begins to unite others, the other camps start to attack him since he is not from their own “club”. This is happening to Saad Hariri and Michel Aoun right now. They both have the greatest potential to unite the country, but they are caught inside a bad system where they spend their energies fending off attacks instead of working on uniting Lebanon. They both have baggage they can’t shake off: Aoun doesn’t have the support of all Christians and Hariri is under the threat or influence of Hezbollah and Walid Jumblatt.

I am not sure if this is just me, but I am sensing a real breakdown in the Lebanese political process. Please tell me if I am right or wrong, and if we can change it?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Is Hezbollah Dictating Lebanon's Foreign Policy? Their Arguments and Counter-proposals.

It’s alarming to witness the increasing frequency of discussions pertaining to Hezbollah and its role in Lebanon, internationally and with Israel. The issue of Hezbollah’s position is still dominating the political agenda in Lebanon. This is good or bad depending on whether Hezbollah’s heightened clatter is perceived as wanting to increase their profile, power, visibility and agenda, or whether it is a precursor for a real and lasting normalization of their status, including a non-military integrative role into Lebanon’s politics.

A new report from the Berlin-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is a must read because it presents a summary of arguments from both sides regarding the Hezbollah conundrum. And today, a Daily Star article headlines that Europeans Propose Merging Hezbullah with Lebanese Army, a suggestion that would “include international guarantees for Hezbullah's leadership that Lebanon would not sign a peace treaty with Israel before a general solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Further excerpts relevant to the ensuing analysis:
Hizbullah politburo member Ghaleb Abu Zeinab told The Daily Star the party's main concern is to defend Lebanon against Israel. He said: "Our main worry is to provide Lebanon with security. Hizbullah arms are providing that."
Asked whether integrating Hizbullah's arms into the Lebanese Army would hinder security, Zeinab said the party in its current situation is already providing security.
He added the party had no objection to disarming, but the challenge lies in maintaining security and peace in Lebanon. Zeinab said any national suggestion presented for preserving Lebanon's safety would be welcomed for discussion.
But Zeinab insisted any such suggestion should be discussed and agreed upon behind closed doors, given the sensitivity of the issue.
He said: "We will study any suggestion carefully and see if it preserves the country's security, and if it will generate national support and approval we will be ready to discuss it and adopt it."
Zeinab added Hizbullah is now the main resistance power in Lebanon, and it is supported by the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese people.
It’s a de-facto observation that Hezbollah has managed to become a heavy influencing factor for Lebanon’s foreign policy almost to the point of indirectly dictating it, due to the passivity of Lebanon’s past government relating to Hezbollah. This comes on the heels of repeated statements by Western powers that Lebanon will not get economic aid without the full implementation of UN 1559.

But Hezbollah’s arguments deserve counter-arguments that address them directly and with logic. Here’s a run-down of six key arguments and counter-proposals to them:

Argument: Hezbollah is a Lebanese internal issue.
Counter: But how come you are linking it to the full resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Argument: We have never turned our arms against the Lebanese people.
Counter: OK, but in the meantime, foreign investment is shying away from Lebanon because you are still perceived as a negative macro-economic factor.

Argument: Who will protect Hezbollah if we give our arms?
Counter: Jordan and Egypt are at peace with Israel, and there has not been any violations. If peace agreements are good for Jordan and Egypt, wouldn’t they be for Lebanon?

Argument: Hezbollah’s arms are needed to protect Lebanon.
Counter: Why couldn’t a Lebanese army of 70,000-100,000 (well equipped and modern) do the same job as the 10,000 Hezbollah fighters?

Argument: We won’t discuss disarmament until the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Counter: The Palestinians inside the Territories are now discussing peace with Israel without being concerned about the rest of the Arab world. Syria is the only remaining stumbling block. If we keep waiting for them, this could extend the status-quo for another 30 years, something the majority of Lebanese may not want. Why don’t we take a referendum in Lebanon regarding whether Lebanon should start peace discussions with Israel now or wait for Syria?

Argument: We are a resistance movement, not a militia, therefore the UN 1559 and Taef do not apply to us.
Counter: This is pushing the semantics rhetoric too far.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Strategic Implications of Berri's Legacy Will Haunt Lebanon for 2 Years

No matter how you slice it, dice it, explain it, justify it or make-believe it, Berri’s re-election as Speaker of the Parliament exemplifies the typical aberrations that are indigenous of the political system in Lebanon. Strategically, Berri’s legacy will continue to affect Lebanon for at least the next two years.

Aside from its pre-event drama, the Berri re-election points to deep-rooted systemic problems facing the Lebanese political process. The persona he represents is exactly what we thought would be part of Lebanon’s past and not its future. His omnipresence along with Lahoud’s proves that the remnants of the pro-Syria era were harder to dissolve than originally expected.

Lame excuses and low expectations
One of the primary excuses given for his re-election was that the Shia’ had felt isolated after March 14 and therefore, not selecting Berri would have further alienated them from the Lebanese community. Ahmad Fatfat (newly elected Future Movement Dinnieh MP) confirmed this “excuse” by saying that the alliance with Berri was vital in order "to complete the national unity that took place on March 14 and include the Shia’ in the reconciliation process." I really didn’t know that the Shia’ were pretty upset about not being part of the March 14th event. Didn’t they get dragged by Hezbollah and Amal into another counter-event one week earlier than March 14th, in support of Syria’s presence in Lebanon? This rhetoric sounds more like “Hezbollah-speak”, instead of mainstream Shia’ language. Is Berri’s nomination the only way to get Lebanon closer to the Shia’?

In reality, Berri is the one that has been isolating the Shia’ community from the rest of Lebanon, since he acts as their de-facto spokesperson and exclusive gatekeeper. LP describes very eloquently Berri’s practices in this blog.

In addition to his role as the Shia’s bridge into Lebanon, Berri is supposedly also the “protector of Hezbollah”. But protection from whom: Israel? Hezbollah's fears about "protection" are hard to understand and so overplayed. When there is peace, it’s peace. It means no more fighting. Therefore, a deterring force isn't really needed. Look at Jordan and Egypt: Israel has not violated the peace agreement with these two countries since it was signed. If Jordan and Egypt aren't good enough examples for Hezbollah, who is? If a strong Lebanese government negotiated a peaceful settlement with Israel, wouldn’t that fulfill Hezbollah’s goal? Does Hezbollah prefer to remain a continual enigma relating to their intentions? If Hezbollah’s goal is the destruction of Israel (or even an extended state of war) as they often imply, then it’s a suicidal mission that the rest of Lebanon does not wish to partake in.

Saad Hariri is on the line
Via its spokesperson, the Hariri bloc has justified the Berri’s nomination: "The extension for Berri is going to take place on the basis of his agreement to cooperate with the program of reforms: the application of the Taif agreement, a fair election law, etc."

It seems that Berri made some promises to Hariri regarding dealing with these “hot issues”. Someone from the Future Movement camp told me “let’s hope Berri doesn’t let the Lebanese people down”. My response was “let’s hope Berri doesn’t let Hariri down”. That deal was between Hariri and Berri. Berri gave his “word” to Hariri that he would deal with reforms, corruption, Geagea’s release, UN 1559, etc. My question is why couldn’t ANY other Speaker hold the same promises? Aren’t these tasks expected from the new Parliament, anyways?

So, Hariri faced a dilemma. On one hand, he was contemplating the easy thing, i.e. siding with Berri, pleasing Hezbollah and alienating Kornet Chehwan, OR blocking Berri and facing Hezbollah directly,- which would have been a first in Lebanon’s recent history, i.e. a Lebanese government dealing directly with Hezbollah with a tough stance.

Hariri took the easy way out, thinking perhaps that it was simpler to later reason with Aoun and the KC (those that didn’t vote for Berri) than to start dealing with Hezbollah. He has opted, in typical Lebanese fashion in the “delaying tactics”. Basically, if you ignore a problem long enough, either it eventually stops being a problem or its level of priority will dwindle down such that you will have in essence avoided it.

Hezbollah is stronger
In reality, this move has emboldened Hezbollah and made feel stronger. Now, the Lebanese government will be dealing with Hezbollah from a position of weakness, rather than from strength had they started by isolating them in the Parliament.

The Iran elections were undoubtedly another factor in Hezbollah’s toughening stance. In essence, they tipped the Lebanese Parliament in their favor, “blackmailed” it using the Chia’ cause as a shield for their intentions, and to further “thank Hariri” for trusting them, they liberally took advantage of the fragile border situation in South Lebanon.

Even if we assume that the recent Israeli incursion into Lebanon was just an accident, by firing directly at Israeli soldiers, Hezbollah showed poor judgment and proved that they can’t be trusted with their arms. Their goal does not appear to revolve around reaching peace, but rather to promote a perpetual state of war. Did they really think that Israel was invading Lebanon with a patrol of five soldiers?

A Ray of Hope
The Taef agreement stipulates under a paragraph entitled “Political Reforms” that:
In the first session, two years after it elects its speaker and deputy speaker, the chamber may vote only once to withdraw confidence from its speaker or deputy speaker with a 2/3 majority of its members and in accordance with a petition submitted by at least 10 deputies. In case confidence is withdrawn, the chamber
shall convene immediately to fill the vacant post.

So, it is conceivable that when Lahoud’s term “expires”, Berri’s reign might as well come to an end if the Parliament applies the above Taef clause.

Until then, mediocrity rules
Until Lebanon’s political leadership is totally above board in terms of their transactions and deal-makings, Lebanon will remain a third world country where accountability, competence and national duty are taken rather lightly. Five-star hotels, designer’s shops, fancy cars and Zegna suits do not a developed country make.

It’s been said that Lebanon is so unique that its solutions are also unique. But going beyond logic defies gravity. Why lower our standards and accept things by the way they are "explained" or “justified” to us, or not by the way they should be?

Despite all the justifications and explanations, June 28th was a sad day for Lebanon.

Yes, Lebanon is the land of “consensus”, but too much consensus leads to mediocrity because you have to keep lowering your standards until you reach absurd agreements that avoid dealing with the tough issues and hence perpetuate the awful and unshakable status quo of mediocrity.