Lebanon: An Important Step Toward More Serious Business

  • 6 August 2008

Lebanon took a very important step last Monday night when its cabinet unanimously approved a government program that will be submitted to Parliament for a vote of confidence in the government. Differences of opinion and reservations about some issues in the draft document did not scuttle its adoption and the progress on the road to accomplishing the many facets of Lebanese national reconciliation that started in Doha.

Agreement about the government's program after 14 sessions by the drafting committee over 22 days represents a step forward, especially that it exemplified an ability to find middle-of-the-road solutions and a willingness to offer satisfactory answers to contentious points. Yet, in spite of this, Lebanon's political forces and trends still face many challenges that are as complicated and sensitive as the previous ones. The differences and reservations that were apparent in the discussions about the program, before and after its adoption by the cabinet, may again hinder progress and roll things back if there is no goodwill in dealing with the program's provisions. Of special importance here is the contentious issue of the resistance movement and its relations with the state. For what's important is not the language in which the issue is couched but in the way it is interpreted and implemented; and not in agreement on paper but in agreement on the ground through actual policies and practices.

Lebanon will also shortly face two big challenges, the first is that about the relationship of the state with Hizbullah and the second concerns Lebanon's external relations, especially with Syria, which President Michel Suleiman is slated to visit in the near future. These two challenges are essential to the future of national dialogue and reconciliation and represent a true test of the appearances of openness and de-escalation on the Lebanese political scene. Thus it is incumbent that dealing with the challenges should be through emphasizing a spirit of reconciliation and flexibility and re-calling a heritage of coexistence and realization of regional and international conditions. It also is essential that the lessons be drawn from the period of conflict that characterized relations in the country for months and exposed it to the dangers of a resumption of the civil war.

Minister of Information Tareq Mitri related that Prime Minister Foud Siniora said in the cabinet meeting that adopted the program that "the work done [on the program] shows our ability to shoulder our responsibilities despite our differences." This is precisely what Lebanon needs in the coming period. Differences of opinion are natural in a state with many trends, religions, and sects. What's important is that disagreements should remain within a national framework and should not hinder Lebanon's progress.