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The repercussions of the deal of the century on Lebanon

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior White House adviser and son-in-law, makes his opening speech in Manama, Bahrain on 25 June 2019 [BNA Pool/Anadolu Agency]

It seems that Lebanon is one of the intended countries targeted by the “deal of the century”, for the “deal” does not only seek to end the Palestine issue, but also to rearrange the regional environment surrounding Palestine, occupied by Israel, so as to serve US-Israeli interests. These include the liquidation of the Palestinian refugee question, blocking any attempt of the revival of civil movements or unity, which would redirect the compass of the regional conflict from an Arab-Israeli one towards an ethno-sectarian one, and where Israel would stand alongside US allies facing Iran and its regional allies.

Consequently, Lebanon would be within targeting range, being one of the ring countries around Israel, whose political system must be adjusted to be in line with the US policy, or at least to ensure that it is neutralised and ineffective in opposing “the deal”. The Palestinian refugees’ issue would also be solved there, whether by facilitating their immigration or by naturalising them and granting them Lebanese citizenship.

In the past few days, there were increasing talks about US attempts to make Lebanon part of the deal. News and “rumours” spread of US and Gulf political contacts made with Lebanese personalities and parties to explore the possibility of passing the deal, and that the economy and finance are used to encourage stances supporting the deal. The enormous suffering of the Lebanese economy, the growing public debt, the large budget deficit, and the chronic problems such as electricity shortages and others… can all be solved with US-Western-Gulf support, if the effective Lebanese parties – or most of them—gave the green light to the deal’s requirements. Furthermore, the problems of oil and gas exploration in the Lebanese coast, its investment and export would be all solved, without any Israeli objections or obstacles.

According to US-plan leakages, $6 billion would be allocated, and five projects to support the Lebanese economy would be executed, as part of implementing the deal.

READ: The deal of the century is not being announced, but implemented

At the same time, there are indicators that the ruling system in Lebanon – in case it did not comply with the requirements – would be left alone to cope with its problems and economic crises.

What is required from Lebanon can be summed up in two points:

First: Founding a political environment that approves the “deal”, or at least that does not hinder its success.

In this context, “normalisation”, dealing with (Lebanese and Palestinian) resistance weapons and taking them out of the conflict’s formula or neutralising them are proposed, so that they will not be a cause of worry to Israel in the future.

Of course, communications and US-Gulf visits [to Lebanon] are meant to go in this direction… However, the public refuses normalisation as well as negotiating over the resistance’s weapons, especially when talking about the conflict with Israel. Despite the fact that some important Lebanese forces and movements see the importance of organising the resistance’s weapons and keeping it outside the sphere of Lebanese internal politics.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets Lebanese President Michel Aoun (R) at Baabda Palace in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 March 2019 [LEBANESE PRESIDENCY /HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets Lebanese President Michel Aoun (R) at Baabda Palace in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 March 2019 [LEBANESE PRESIDENCY /HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency]

Despite Hezbollah being under immense financial pressure (since it is the main resistance force in Lebanon), its ability to hold its ground, and its considerable weight in the Lebanese decision-making process, in addition to the fact that there are other Lebanese forces from various sects that support the resistance and anti-normalisation, make the possibility of complying with US-Israeli wishes unlikely… even if there were increasing attempts to escalate the Lebanese economic and living crises.

As for the option of a (US-supported) Israeli war on Lebanon to subdue it and take the resistance’s weapons or Hezbollah out of the political equation, it is unlikely, especially in the current conditions or in the near future. Israeli decision makers do not seem serious about it. The price of such an offensive would be very high, while the chances of reaching its objectives are slim, and the chances of suffering significant Israeli military and economic losses are high, because the resistance can target Israeli communities and vital areas all over Israel.

That’s why the US may prefer to continue with political and economic pressures on Lebanon without entering into a war, causing the Lebanese government collapse, or enter into a phase of chaos. Such a case would negatively reflect Israel, as borders may go out of control and resistance operations escalate…

Second: Dismantling the issue of Palestinian refugees, by expanding and facilitating the immigration of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon, granting Lebanese citizenship to about a 100,000 Palestinians, dismantling the Palestinian refugee camps and imposing state control on them, and disarming Palestinian forces and factions.

Perhaps the results of the post enumeration survey showing the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as 174,000, while the number of those registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is more than 550,000, indicate that most of them have either temporarily or permanently left Lebanon, even if their names are still on the refugee registries. At the same time, it gives the impression that the practical solution to end the refugee question has become easier, even if the actual number of refugees in Lebanon exceeds the survey by tens of thousands.

Perhaps facilitating naturalisation may be one of the quiet exits to the “resettlement” process, such as naturalising those married to Lebanese women and their children or those who have invested in the Lebanese economy etc.

The US-attempts to close UNRWA and drain its financial resources have caused great pressure on both Palestinians and the Lebanese government, consequently, there must be Lebanese-Palestinian coordination to face it.

Furthermore, pushing Lebanese authorities to disarm the refugee camps, without prior consent from the Palestinian community and political forces, and without sufficient security guarantees for the Palestinians, may lead to armed clashes and devastating results for both Lebanese and Palestinian parties.

The naturalisation of Palestinians and their absorption into Lebanese society is likely to be rejected by Lebanese society and Palestinians as it would mean waiving their right of return.

READ: Israel newspaper publishes terms of ‘deal of century’

The “deal of the century” is not a fate, and can be thwarted as dozens of peace settlement projects over the past 70 years have been before, as long as the Palestinian people continue to hold onto their rights. The chances of implementing “the deal” by the Palestinians is remote, because there is a Palestinian consensus on rejecting it.

It also will not be easy for Arab parties to implement it as there remain parties that reject solving the refugee issue at their expense such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There are also other Arab states which are hesitant about adopting the deal because it constitutes less than what the Arab minimum calls for to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The US enforces its views and uses its enormous international influence to render them facts on the ground. However, the insistence of Palestinians on their rights, supported by the Arabs and Muslims, remains the cornerstone that delegitimises any condescending US-Israeli-Western attitude.

Perhaps it’s time for various Lebanese forces, which are the wide majority and which reject the deal and resettlement, to form a unified “impregnable wall” along with the Palestinian forces and factions against the US and its allies. Furthermore, there is a great need for educational and political media programs to spread awareness among the Lebanese about the dangers of the deal, so that no one falls for the US temptations or threats.

Finally, the best way to face the “deal” and avoid any problems that may be prompted by attempts to apply it, is by speeding up the process of granting the Palestinians in Lebanon their economic, social and humanitarian civil rights, and providing a good environment for a decent life. This matter is no longer difficult, due to the fact that Lebanese parties have acknowledged most – if not all – of these rights when they ratified a document issued by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee in January 2017, which found reasonable solutions to regulate the Palestinian presence in Lebanon.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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