Lebanon After Doha Agreement

  • 27 May 2008

Finally, Lebanese factions have been successful in signing an agreement for resolving their differences after their recent negotiations in Doha. The agreement, which was published yesterday, stated that the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament should call for a session of the General Assembly within 24 hours for the formal election of the consensus candidate, commander of the Lebanese Army General Michel Sleiman, as President of the Republic of Lebanon. Both the ruling and opposition forces have agreed to form a national unity government comprising 30 ministers; out of which 16 would come from ruling majority group, 11 from the opposition, while three will be nominated by the President of the Republic. Moreover, all factions have agreed to approve the 1960 Code for general elections as the basis for upcoming elections. According to this law, Beirut would be divided into three major electoral constituencies. Both parties, the ruling majority and the opposition, agreed to shun violence and pledged never to take up arms again.

Undoubtedly, this agreement is highly important. It shows that no domestic crisis in the Arab world is impossible to solve. Although the Lebanese crisis was highly complex, the various political factions agreed among themselves by making mutual compromises and by putting national interests above their own. This is the approach needed for solving conflicts and crises, which many Arab countries have been lacking thus far. Secondly, this agreement shows the role Arabs can play in solving their problems internally, if they cultivate trust among themselves and aim to reach practical solutions. Third, this agreement has demonstrated the importance of social pressure on political leadership that could push the latter into resolving political disagreements. The Lebanese community, through its active participation, consistently put pressure on Lebanese political leaders to reach this agreement. During the negotiation period, public pressure was exerted consistently and slogans like “If you did not agree do not return,” were uttered to prod the leaders.

A review of the text of the abovementioned agreement reveals that it is clear, comprehensive and contains the right mechanism for its execution. Evidently, the impediments that faced the execution of the erstwhile “Arab Initiative” to settle the Lebanese crisis did not have the present level of transparency and inclusion. Therefore, it seems there is a realistic chance for this agreement to work and one hopes this to be the final chapter of the political crisis that had threatened the Lebanese political situation with serious consequences. Maybe the opposition’s decision to immediately call off their ongoing demonstrations, which had continued for over a year and a half year, just after the signing of the agreement is a good sign to begin with.

Despite the crucial importance of the signing of this agreement, Lebanon could still face a civil war in the future. Therefore, it is important that the priorities of the agreement are clearly sorted out at the outset and a plan of action is drawn right now. There is still a lot to be achieved, chiefly the “normalization” of relations between the “majority” forces and the “opposition” camp. The rhetoric of hostility and hatred has to end and the bitterness caused by previous armed clashes between the rivals has to be forgotten. In addition, the Lebanese government has to sort out its immediate priorities and the nature of its foreign affairs—whether regional or international—in a way that safeguards the supreme interests of Lebanon. Naturally, the situation in Lebanon requires continuous Arab support to ensure the success of the signed agreement, and there is also need for regional and international support for this operation, as Lebanon is very sensitive to events taking place in its troubled vicinity.