Chaos in Exchange for the Tribunal
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 17/11/06//
The Lebanese will have to pay a high price for this ongoing frantic conflict, now that all parties recognize that this state of affairs is a reflection of a major regional struggle. It is a price that will be paid by the Lebanese even if this conflict ends in the next few weeks. This is because meddling with the Constitution and the language used for political mobilization by some, be it intentionally or not, harms the relations between the communities. This will have repercussions on the generation of Lebanese who will not be able to escape the negative effects of this absurdity at the level of national, economic and social development.

Whether the Opposition, which now calls for the reformulation of the governing authority, wants it or not, it was forced to use other justifications and reasons to cover its position regarding the rejection of the Fouad Siniora government's attempt to endorse the plans of the International Tribunal to try those accused of assassinating the martyr, Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. This can only mean fabricating yet other causes for conflict, and magnifying them. Indeed, causes have their roots, such as participating in the Resolution and confronting the American and International supervision of Lebanon. But this is not the real problem.

The compelling force that drove the opposition to stand in the face of the International Tribunal without the ability to be open about this position is the same that made them exaggerate all of these causes of the conflict. The exaggerations reached the point where these causes were placed over and above the real antagonist, the International Tribunal.

If the Tribunal was not the real reason, then the six ministers who resigned last Saturday would have waited till Monday and participated in what they themselves call the national consensus based on the formula established by the UN. They could have resigned afterward for the reasons they have openly declared and continue to declare. It is absurd to fabricate new reasons, and exaggerate other, existing ones, as the Hezbollah-Amal-Aoun Movement alliance did in cooperation with the other pro-Syrian forces. It compels these forces to resort to demands that cannot be met, or that are unfeasible to the other side. The reason is that the size of this bloc is not compatible with its demand to take over the third, suspended part in the next government; nor is it strong enough for early parliamentary elections to be followed by the presidential elections.

Opposition leaders are already aware that early elections are required if a new election law is to be passed and the mandate of the current parliament shortened. All this needs the approval of the current ruling majority in Parliament and the government. If the majority accepts these two demands, a settlement of some sort will be made that will satisfy the majority. The package of settlements will include the Presidency of the Republic as well as other issues, in the forefront of which will be the Tribunal.

The minority's ambiguous stance in opposing the International Tribunal places it in the position of making snowball demands, threatening to take to the streets, without being able to achieve anything there. In this way, the minority will become a hostage to its own demands: it will not be able to realize them, nor will it be in the position to relinquish them, for fear that it will be said it has sustained a defeat. This snowball of demands will continue to grow as long as the process of establishing the International Tribunal takes time, thanks to these wrangles.

The Tribunal could take a year to be formed, according to the estimates of some experts. This means that the opposition will continue to raise its demands to prevent the Tribunal from being set up for this whole year. There is no room for this escalation, which will only bring chaos to Lebanon, and the whole country will pay for dearly for years to come. If the actual decision is to prevent the formation of the Tribunal or at least delay it to wait on international developments, then the demands used to disguise this opposition will be costly in several fields, including constitutional chaos, which is also being trumped up.

There are those who say that the government's endorsement of the project of a Tribunal during the endorsement meeting in the absence of the Shiite ministers is unconstitutional. They are aware that this is not true. What they say is contrary to the Constitution. They are willing to go all lengths to question the legitimacy of a Tribunal by creating a constitutional dispute so severe that the basic standards are shrouded in mist. There is another cost that will increase in the next stage because of their attempt to appropriate the conciliatory role played by the Lebanese Parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berry.

Berry was forced to go along with his Hezbollah allies in inventing causes for conflict, the main reason being the Tribunal. He was forced to do what he feared for the stability of the country. It is no coincidence that he first said the decisions of the government were constitutional, and then that they were unconstitutional 48 hours later. Chaos in Lebanon has begun to make itself felt, even before the opposition has hit the street.

In that case, how will things turn out if the opposition leaps forward out of the meshes by hunting down the Tribunal before the Tribunal can hunt down the suspects? The high price that the initiators of this policy will pay, apart from the cost that all the Lebanese will have to face, will reach its peak when they are forced to retreat