Creating new perspectives since 2009

What is Lebanon’s priority, electing a president or resisting Israel?

March 5, 2024 at 2:47 pm

Smoke rises after Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes and hit the in the town of Ghaziyeh, located around 30km from the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon on February 20, 2024 [Houssam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon not only has recurring crises, but as a state and a people it is also facing the challenge of choosing between electing a new president — the position has been vacant for sixteen months — or continuing to support the resistance against Israel. There are strong opinions and arguments for both options.

Those for whom the priority is electing a president argue that it is a basic condition for preventing the collapse of the state at the national, political, administrative, economic, social and security levels. Indeed, having a sitting president in the pyramid of power is a condition and starting point for national reconciliation among the currently fragmented Lebanese sects, factions, parties and mafias. It is also a basic condition for forming a new government to conduct national business which faces various challenges and difficulties. Moreover, the presence of a head of state is a basic condition for the existence of the state itself and its ability to exercise its sovereignty and effectiveness.

Agreeing on the election of the President of the Republic is a fundamental act on the path of building national solidarity to confront the Zionist state of Israel and foreign interference in Lebanon’s affairs.

Those who believe that the priority is to resist aggressive Zionism also have multiple arguments, most notable is that, with Israel’s repeated attacks on Lebanese territory, the absence of an effective government in Lebanon exacerbates the ongoing collapse of the state at all levels. Failure to resist Israeli aggression in the current difficult circumstances complicates, if not prevents, national reconciliation and unity in the face of the enemy and foreign parties intervening in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

READ: Russia objects to dismissal of UN Agency’s employees based on Israel claims

Agreement on the priority of resisting the Zionist enemy prompts the approval of another priority parallel to the importance of supporting the popular armed resistance, which is reaching an understanding on a national strategy to defend Lebanon. The basis of this is the building of a strong army with a national combat doctrine and armed by countries and sources that are not allied with the occupation state.

The cooperation of the national army and the armed popular resistance would establish cohesion among young recruits, which would strengthen national unity among Lebanon’s various social and political groupings.

The demands of electing a president and supporting popular armed resistance can be combined through a thought-out synchronisation of both, and with continuous and persistent effort to agree on a national figure worthy of being president during this difficult stage.

Looking at the arguments and motives of both sides, I believe that those whose priority is to elect a president fail to determine the country’s requirements.

They overlook the glaring fact that Israel is still determined to pursue a war of genocide, starvation and displacement against the Palestinian people in general and the people of the Gaza Strip in particular. Perhaps the clearest evidence of this was seen in last Thursday’s attack on starving people waiting for desperately needed humanitarian aid. More than 100 Palestinians were killed, with around 700 wounded. Added to this is the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there will be no end to the war before the return of Israeli captives held by the resistance movements, and the insistence of Defence Minister Yoav Gallant that a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip does not mean that there will be one on the border with Lebanon. His statement was accompanied by an Israeli air strike on villages near Baalbek, which is about 100 kilometres from the border of occupied Palestine.

Moreover, Israel is hindering the ongoing negotiations in Cairo, Doha and Paris until it gets a list of the names of the captives held by Hamas. It is also refusing to exchange prominent Palestinian leaders such as Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat.

READ: Hamas demands release of more senior prisoners by Israel

We must also consider the fact that, in 1982, Israel occupied around half of Lebanon’s geographical area before withdrawing to a strip along the border, about 100 kilometres long and no less than 10 kilometres wide. Ironically, this withdrawal did not occur thanks to the Lebanese army, but thanks to the popular armed resistance, Hezbollah. It was Hezbollah that imposed rules of engagement on Israel after the 2006 war, which the latter held to for 18 years until it assassinated Saleh Al-Arouri, a senior Hamas leader, in the southern suburb of Beirut in early January. His assassination was not preceded by any Hezbollah operation within the occupation entity or on its borders. It is also worth pointing out that one of the main reasons for the delay in electing a president is not Hezbollah or the political forces allied with it, but rather the conflict within the political forces that are hostile to the movement, and their inability to agree on a candidate among them.

In addition to all of this, it is necessary to draw the attention of the side supporting the presidential electing as a priority for Lebanon, especially those allied with Western countries, to the fact that Israel’s tendency to tilt towards expansion and war has historical religious and contemporary political roots. This is evidenced by the presence of a plaque on the Knesset (parliament) building with some text from the Torah on it: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates”. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, which was forcibly and unjustly planted in the historic land of Palestine in 1948, warned the occupying masses by saying something that remains both aggressive and frank: “Israel will die if it stops expanding.”

All of Ben-Gurion’s successors have been keen to heed this warning by waging continuous wars against the surrounding Arab states in order to annex more land. They have always kept the land they took by military conquest — a breach of international law — with open support from the US, unless it was handed back in exchange for a peace treaty, with and Jordan. That’s what happened when Israel withdrew from the Egyptian Sinai and the Jordan Valley. Isn’t it ironic, therefore, that little Lebanon was able, thanks to the resistance, to force Israel to withdraw from occupied Lebanese land in the south unconditionally? It was and still is the only Arab country whose land was occupied by Israel, and whose popular armed resistance, not its regular army, forced the occupation state to withdraw without a peace treaty being imposed on it and without a flag flying over an Israeli Embassy in Beirut.

Think about that.

OPINION: On solidarity and Kushner’s shame: How Gaza defeated US stratagem, again

Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi, 3 March 2024.

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