Hariri's Proposal and The Destructive Waiting
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 16/02/07//

Those opposed to setting up an international tribunal to try suspected killers of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions, and the perpetrators of other related crimes, will not find the huge popular crowd that marked the second anniversary of the crime a good reason to take an interest in reaching an internal settlement.

The major outcome of this gathering, among many things, is that it has highlighted the popular support to the demand of the parliamentary majority and the March 14 Forces to establish the court, the "only way for any solution" as Future Movement leader Saad Hariri and many other speakers described it. The opposition, however, has shunned these calls.

The main word of the gathering was delivered by MP Saad Hariri, whom the international tribunal issue concerns most among other victim's families who are seeking justice, and included repeated calls for dialogue as a means to "come to the brave decisions" that guarantee the setting up of the tribunal and a government where "all parliamentary blocs are represented. The positive signals of these words, however, did not receive any response. Hariri has put forward a proposal that directly addresses the opposition's main demand, which is forming a national unity government. But the leaders of the opposition, instead of responding to this offer, preferred to respond to the Democratic Gathering leader Walid Jumblatt's attacks on Syria and the Lebanese Forces executive Samir Geagea's attack on President Emile Lahoud.

In his speech, Hariri has proposed an open, public framework for the tribunal-government formula, but someone else drew the responses. This proposal of Hariri's had earlier been made in an interview with LBC satellite channel.

This is not a coincidence given the fact that the real answer to his proposal will not come from within Lebanon, but form without. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry kept telling any negotiator he meets with that improving the Syrian-Saudi bilateral relations was the key to resolving the ongoing dispute over the international tribunal and the government. The preference made by the opposition to react to Jumbaltt's attack on the Syrian leadership and Geagea's remarks about Lahoud, rather than responding to Hariri's initiative, may be a signal that the foreign obstacles to making any internal progress will continue.

But the problem is that waiting for a solution to come from abroad may last for too long, even till after the due date of many regional commitments such as the Arab summit scheduled for the end of March in Saudi. Moreover, the bet on regional contacts to impose a solution on the Lebanese people, as some in the opposition camp hope in order to avoid embarrassment with some of their allies, seems no more than a means to kill the time while waiting.

The opposition waits for Riyadh, in the context of joint Iranian-Saudi efforts, to put pressure on the majority to accept a settlement that would spare the major opposition forces a disagreement with Syria. This is not likely so far as Riyadh insists on the principle of setting up the tribunal in any case. Meanwhile, the majority bets on Tehran persuading Hezbollah and Amal Movement of a solution that would lead to an agreement over the issue of the tribunal; and then it could accept the proposal to enlarge the government. But the past few weeks have proven that this is not likely, as Iran and its friends in Lebanon would not abandon Damascus in its demand to put off the discussion of the tribunal issue till after the international investigation is concluded.

If the situation in Lebanon continues this way, i.e. waiting for a foreign solution, the fantasy hopes of some of its leaders will lead them to an unknown future.
Foreign and regional forces, while trying to reach agreements over major crises, test each other; leaving the Lebanese crisis to a second or third priority. A close observation of concerned regional players shows that they are currently testing their ability to enforce the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form a national unity government in Palestine. Tehran has received the Islamic Jihad Secretary-General, Ramadan Shalah, before the meeting to indicate that facilitating a deal with Hamas does not call off the other cards it had. Also, Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Meshaal's thanking to Syria for facilitating the Mecca meeting means that Damascus will have the right to follow a hard-line policy in Lebanon in return for its part in that meeting, if it achieves its final goals, especially that it had received words of appreciation from some European countries for its role to bring the two Palestinian parties to an understanding.

Therefore, the waiting of some Lebanese leaders for a solution from abroad may turn into a destructive behavior when they had been promised an upcoming solution