Posted by Joshua on Thursday, January 10th, 2008
According to Ibrahim Hamidi in al-Hayat, Syria insists that it is playing a positive role with the French in developing "a road map" forward for Lebanon. Foreign Minister Walid Mualem explains that Syria will not sacrifice its national interests for the Arab League meeting scheduled to be held in Damascus this spring. All the same, Mualem pointed out the achievements of the Franco-Syrian dialogue that has been taking place over Lebanon: there has been agreement over who the next president should be, Michel Suleiman; there has also been agreement that a national unity government should be formed and a new election law promulgated.
French parliamentary delegation affirms good relations with Syria despite spat over Lebanon (AP) Sarkozy had said that France wouldn't talk with Syria.
Hiyam Kossaify in the daily an-Nahar expresses a widespread Lebanese conviction that "Syria will never allow the Lebanese presidential issue to be resolved so long as it does not have a firm commitment from France to scrub the international trial on the Hariri assassination."
Rosana Boumounsef of an-Nahar also blames Syria:
The French stand, as outlined by President Nicolas Sarkozy from Egypt, named Syria as the side that is blocking the presidential election process, and efforts by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to put the burden on Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun, were aimed at trying to avoid the isolation that Damascus is suffering from, Boumounsef wrote.
"The French who had repeatedly threatened to expose the side that is blocking the settlement have … declared the truth, named Syria and the opposition and held Speaker Nabih Berri responsible for the unprecedented closure of Parliament," according to the article.
Mualem insists that Syria cannot resolve the Presidential issue if the Lebanese opposition leaders are unwilling to accept the unity government offered by Hariri and company. The Syrians have been stressing that they do not have communications with General Aoun and cannot influence him. Although they acknowledge close relations with Hizbullah, they also insist they cannot order Hizbullah on such a crucial issue as the make up of a national unity government. Opposition representation in the new government will establish Hizbullah's power until elections are held in 2009.
Hizbullah maintains that it was stabbed in the back by the March 14th alliance in 2005 and cannot trust it to stick by political understandings – hence it wants a blocking third in the new government. It believes the Lebanese opposition will win the majority in free elections.
HIzbullah maintains that before the elections of 2005, it agreed with March 14 leaders to support eleven of their candidates in the parliamentary elections in exchange for a promise to support the "resistance," i.e. Hizbullah's right to maintain its militia and arms. What happened? Hariri and Jumblat turned against the resistance and hardly concealed their desire for Israel to wipe out Hizbullah during the summer war of 2006. Hizbullah believes it can take back many of the 11 parliamentary positions from Jumblat and Hariri in the 2009 elections, but in the meantime it wants guarantees that the government will not move against Hizbullah and that it can veto any election law of which it does not approve.
The devil is in the details of the national unity government. Initially there were reports that the president would be given ten members of the thirty member cabinet to appoint. This caused resistance among both the opposition and parliamentary majority. The opposition has called for each side being allotted a share of cabinet members in proportion to there membership in parliament, but this is not acceptable to March 14 as it would increase the opposition's authority. The March 14th group would like to keep the composition of the cabinet as close to what it is today as possible.
Hizbullah MP Mohammad Haidar said his party was awaiting Moussa's arrival to guarantee that there would be "no winner and no loser" as part of the Arab settlement plan. "We want to make sure that under the proposed formula, no party will be able to impose its decisions in the next government," Haidar said. "If this is the case, then we can have an elected president on Saturday," he added.
Bush has said Israel must end its occupation of some Arab land to enable the creation of a viable Palestinian state. No Golan statement. (BBC)
- Palestinian refugee families should be compensated, rather than returning to former homes in what is now Israel
- adjustments to the pre-1967 boundaries "to reflect current realities" – a reference to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank
- a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian state
Mearsheimer and Walt argue that U.S. presidential candidates aren't doing the Jewish state any favors by offering unconditional support in their article: "Israel's false friends."
Ghassan Rubeiz in his Daily Star article, "Who should Arab Americans Vote For?," argues that "if Barak Obama wins, there is hope that he will be more open on the matter of Middle East justice than other front runners in the presidential race."
Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations explains that: "The six leading candidates have expressed common themes on the subject of democracy promotion in the Middle East. For example, they all say (as does the Bush administration) that if Arabs are provided with an opportunity to express their grievances through democratic institutions, there would be less terrorism. However, in general the candidates have been vague about how the United States can promote such developments."
Shlomo Ben-Ami, argues in "From father to son, Arab despotism may have merit," that:
As countries like Egypt, Syria and Libya might be indicating, hereditary succession is not an inherently reactionary move. Rather, it means opting for a controlled transition to a post-revolutionary phase in which economic modernization and international integration might usher in greater political change in the future.
In a new opinion poll by www.statisticslebanonltd.com asks:
What is the most important: An Arab Lebanon, or a democratically oriented Lebanon?
The majority of respondents (68.67%) considered a democratically oriented Lebanon to be the most important, while 27% considered an Arab Lebanon to be the most important. Only 3.17% considered a Muslim Lebanon to be the most important and 1.17% refused to answer. See figure 2
A majority of 91% of respondents support a revision of the Lebanese constitution to ensure the best equality among the Lebanese regardless of their sect.
French source tells Al-Hayat about details of negotiations with Syria…” from mideastwire.com
“A French source in the team of the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner who attended his meetings in Beirut at the beginning of last month revealed that MP Al-Hariri never accepted in any form to give the debilitating third in the coming government to the opposition during his meetings with Kouchner and the parliamentary speaker Nabih Birri. He clarified in response to Al-Muallem’s affirmation that Al-Hariri agreed to give the debilitating third that Al-Hariri refused from the outset of the meeting to discuss any issue other than the amendment of the constitution to allow for the election of General Suleiman to the presidency. The source added that when Birri insisted on Al-Hariri agreeing to an announcement of principles sanctioning the formation of a government with 55% of the seats going to the majority and 45% to the opposition, Al-Hariri told him that if Birri guarantees “Hezbollah’s ok then I will agree to talking about the announcement of principles”
“The same source clarified that “there was no problem concerning the amendment of the constitution and the new electoral law but that the issue of the national unity government was discussed in depth but Al-Hariri refused to form the government based on the ratio of the size of the respective coalitions in the parliament”. The source announced that “a formula stating that the government will be formed according to a formula that will take into consideration the size of the parliamentary coalitions but without any specific details”. The French official declared that no agreement was reached concerning the announcement of principles because Birri didn’t agree to the path for the constitutional amendment.
“The source pointed out that the Syrians sent to the French president palace on the eve of the meeting between Kouchner, Al-Hariri, and Birri a draft for a joint statement between Birri and Al-Hariri which would “facilitate matters” but its contents were similar to Birri’s suggestions in that meeting. The source added that this means that Birri received the same draft that was sent by Al-Muallem to the presidential palace…” – Al-Hayat, United Kingdom