Creating new perspectives since 2009

If Berri’s announcement about negotiations with Israel isn’t normalisation, what is it?

October 19, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on April 1, 2019 [HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP via Getty Images]

Suddenly and without prior notice, Nabih Berri announced recently that Lebanon and Israel have reached an agreement under American auspices to start talks about disputed borders. The Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament is also the head of the Amal Movement, which raises the flag of resistance against the Zionist enemy and the US.

The timing of this development is suspicious, as it coincides with the Arab normalisation season, which swept from Abu Dhabi to Manama across to countries on their way to normalisation and are not ashamed to admit it, such as Sudan and Saudi Arabia. This is the breakthrough that US President Donald Trump is using for leverage in his faltering election campaign, as polls indicate that his opponent Joe Biden is outperforming him. However, Trump no doubt hopes that with normalisation he will win the backing of the Zionist right wing in America in the election next month.

Berri began his speech by citing the “armistice” agreement concluded between Lebanon and Israel in the 1950s, and he talked about the involvement of an American colonel. This is not true, as the American government had no role in that armistice; it was agreed under the auspices of the UN. Why is Berri trying to use this to justify his offence against Lebanon and infer some sort of legitimacy now by using an agreement that the Israelis have breached repeatedly? What legitimacy can possibly be left after Israel has invaded and occupied Lebanon twice; breaches Lebanese air space regularly; and occupies Lebanese territory? Has the Speaker forgotten about Shebaa Farms? The armistice agreement is dead and buried, but Berri is still clinging to it and citing it.

How odd that he is still claiming to be involved in resistance with his ally Hezbollah, which threatens the Zionist state with its deterrent force and missiles that can reach Haifa and beyond. Even stranger is that Hezbollah has remained completely silent since Berri announced the framework agreement.

Lebanese president: ‘We count on Washington’s role in demarcating borders with Israel’

Moreover, an informed political source close to Berri confirmed that he did not give the green light to start negotiations by simply announcing the political content of the framework agreement. He and his ally Hezbollah have to agree first on the mechanism that he has put forward in this regard. This was also approved by President Michel Aoun, who said that Iran did not object to the start of negotiations.

At his press conference, Berri twice evaded the issue of normalisation and neither condemned nor supported it. He simply insisted that this framework agreement is a great victory for Lebanon.

What victory is he talking about? How does Lebanon gain from this? The country is on its way to begin negotiations with Israel while it is a disjointed state with a collapsed economy and a crisis-stricken society. There is no better situation for Israel to get everything it wants, especially since, according to Berri, the negotiations are without conditions so Lebanon will surely give up its rights in a moment of weakness, lacking both political and diplomatic weight.

No doubt the Zionist entity will start drilling in the disputed areas, under any pretext, as it does not have any problem about fabricating lies. This will expose the Lebanese share of the reserves that extend across the maritime border.

It is ironic that Lebanon has refused to enter the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Consortium, under the pretext that it would be considered as normalisation with the Zionist occupation state. Isn’t this framework agreement with Israel not normalisation too, or at least paving the way towards it?

Negotiations over the demarcation of the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel are incompatible with the national interests of the former, in both form and substance. There is thus no doubt that Nabih Berri hastened to announce the agreement from his headquarters to divert the US sanctions that might be extended to him and his wife, as he is on the list of “corrupt persons” in Lebanon. In trying to save himself with this corrupt agreement, he is possibly drowning Lebanon.

 Lebanon marks protest anniversary with return to the streets

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