Hezbollah in the Opposition
Abdullah Iskandar Al-Hayat - 21/11/06//

After the resignation of the Shiite ministers, something that may be held against the current Lebanese government is that it is now non-charter. Not that anyone has questioned its constitutionality; as long it enjoys the confidence of the majority of Parliament, and as long as the House and the President of the Republic retain their mandate. And the fact that the government has become non-charter due to the resignation of ministers of one sect and political creed is, moreover, a precedent that might be repeated in the future with other sects, regardless of their size and importance. This is bearing in mind that recognized sects are often only represented by one minister, and are sometimes not represented at all. A charter means equality, not the right to veto.

When Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was explaining the reasons for the resignation of the Shiite representatives from Fouad Siniora's government, he stressed that their presence was no longer meaningful because any disagreement would be put to the vote, with results contrary to their convictions. He thus considers disagreements and division in this government to be the rule, and not government solidarity that is led by the spirit of the charter. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine that he will try, through dialogue and consultation, to make votes inside the government the rule, and not an exception, as it is now. In this way, he would retain the power to veto decisions. The rest is clear: confronting the majority with one of two options; either they grant him this power, and, with it, running the risk of making a precedent, or holding early elections, which would overturn the equation of majority-minority. Consequently, Nasrallah would take full control of the government's decision-making.

The developments that should be expected are serious if he really thinks that the street is the decisive factor that will solve this dilemma. This alternative carries with it the possibility of the entire issue slipping into a violent confrontation that would end in civil war. This possibility is more than a bad omen, following Hezbollah's qualitative shift in policy, as announced by Nasrallah in his speech in which he mobilized the street.

Since the party was founded, and after the bombing of liquor retailers and the liquidation of local rivals that lasted for a few months, the party maintained the slogan of resistance to Israel, especially after the Taif Agreement, and against the backdrop of Syrian military presence. Over this period, the security and military capabilities of the State were placed at the disposal of the Resistance. The party, which came to be the only Resistance, no longer had need for official political decisions. The strategy of resistance was separate from the Lebanese State, and was tied up in the strategy of the Syrian-Israeli dispute. The legitimate authority that was formed after the Taif Agreement had no right to interfere in or question the work of the Resistance, regardless of the consequences this would entail for that authority. Due to the Syrian presence, it was forced to coexist with Hezbollah's independent authority. Moreover, thanks to the considerable resources provided by Syria and Iran, and the considerable skills of the party's leadership (at least compared to other Lebanese leaders), there was never any cause for internal conflict. Never any cause, that is, as long as everyone resigned themselves to this reality.

Not only this, but, at the time, the political echelon went even further than the Party to underline the cause of the resistance and the need to retain Hezbollah's weapons. So the Party became the party of the privileged, at least in so far as the resources of the State were at its disposal when Hezbollah decided to resort to armed force. The State acknowledged that only Hezbollah could carry out the task of armed resistance. Therefore, Hezbollah was exceptionally privileged.

After Hariri's assassination and the subsequent internal changes, the Party tried to maintain its previous position. This attempt manifest itself in the Party's alliance in the elections with the forces that stood to benefit from Syria's evacuation of Lebanon (Future
Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and Lebanese Forces, in addition to Amal, of course) and the government's program to protect the Resistance. But with the latest developments, especially the passing of binding international resolutions, questions are now assailing the Party's fortified share of power.

Until a few days ago, Nasrallah continued to speak as the representative of the Resistance, Hezbollah, Amal, March 8, and the meeting of the political parties and national personalities. He was the loyal ally of Syria and the strategic ally, Iran, while insisting on remaining a part of the coalition government. Even after the July War and the accusations of government collusion with the Israeli aggression sponsored by the US, Nasrallah did not declare that he would leave the government and return to the ranks of the opposition. Moreover, he never even used the expression 'return to the opposition', except in his recent speech, after he warned on the eve of consultation that he might go back to the opposition. The first step toward opposition is to overthrow the government, instead of holding it to account and calling for a vote of confidence in Parliament and giving better representation when the time comes for elections. Hezbollah's shift from supporting the government to opposition, as Nasrallah proposes, is the first and most important transformation of the Party since its inception.

Nasrallah knows the meaning of this transformation, which is why he sought to avoid it. He put back the attempts to implement many times as long as he was able to take advantage of the widely-acknowledged fact that was stated one day about the Maronites: 'What is for us is for us alone and what is for you is for you as well as for us'. His is not an ordinary party that pleads for peaceful political action, especially since its turning to the opposition stemmed from its inability to control what is 'for you'. It is an armed party, almost the militarily strongest player in Lebanon.

No matter how many calls for peaceful and civilized moves, and no matter how much it stresses that its objectives are patriotic and non-sectarian, the Party cannot deny that it is armed and is moving toward toppling the government to set up another in its place. When the opposition is armed, and it seeks change, and its backbone is one sect alone, there is no longer any use in talking about institutions, the Constitution, or the Charter