In recent weeks there have been many manifestos, documents, programs and various calls launched by Lebanese political groups, especially the March 14 coalition, about Lebanon, the Arab Spring and the relation between the two. These written items and verbal statements have dealt with the political changes underway in the Arab world as an opportunity for efforts to see Lebanon make a transition to a period of dialogue on rebuilding a unified state where weapons are under government authority, coexistence is enshrined, and the role and status of minorities in democratic, pluralist societies is guaranteed.
Some of these attempts and contributions have been abundant because of the 14 February commemoration of the seventh anniversary of the Rafik Hariri assassination, followed by the annual event to mark the birth of the 14 March movement, which took place earlier this week. But some of them can also be attributed to fears on the part of minorities that hardline Islamist and non-secular groups are taking power in a number of countries experiencing the Arab Spring, which frightens minorities, especially Christians. Authoritarian regimes have helped in this fear-mongering, to justify their resistance to change. Some of these calls and statements have been courageous in trying to secure guarantees and reassurances, by getting involved in the transformations underway because they will chart a new future for the region.
Most of these attempts to address the situation have coincided with celebrations in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to mark one year since the change these countries experienced. But the salient point is that for the Lebanese, the commemoration of 14 March coincided with the first anniversary, the following day, of the Syrian uprising against the regime, an uprising that continues to confront the ugliest types of oppression and murder, turning Syria into an arena of international struggle. This was after a struggle broke out between the authorities and the people, who could no longer tolerate injustice, oppression and corruption.
The motive for unveiling the readiness of 14 March and the Future Movement for openness and building civil peace and an inclusive state is a wager on change in Syria, whose regime has been the most influential in anchoring the current political equation governing Lebanon, which takes place in a manner resembling this regime’s control of political life in Syria, through the use of all types of violence and pressure. However, this readiness was met by either unconcern or suspicion by the other side, led by Hezbollah. The lack of attention and the suspicion contains a denial, even if under the slogan of “no one can deny the existence of the other,” which is the refrain of all sides in Lebanon. But some of this results also from the belief of the Hizbullah-led camp that no change will take place in Syria that requires them to respond to initiatives that spring from the wager on the fall of the Syrian regime. As long as the regime remains in place, there is no need to alter the formula that it has established in Lebanon, and no need for modifying what resulted from the use of arms to impose the current political formula on 7 May 2008; there is no justification for reversing the undermining of the "S-S" (Saudi Arabia and Syria) agreement of the end of 2010, which was imposed by intimidation and the use of force at the time, and moving toward a new agreement. The political groups that were behind the events of May 2008 and reaped their consequences are still strong and able to solidify what they have achieved, as acknowledged by Hezbollah and its allies.
There is abundant evidence that the calls for openness and dialogue resemble a dialogue of the deaf. When former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said, in addressing the Shiites, that “we make our destiny together,” the secretary general of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, responded by saying, “You are not in a position to give guarantees in Lebanon and the region because the game is bigger than you.” Nasrallah paid no attention to Hariri’s clarification last week, when declaring the manifesto of the Future Movement, that "democracy is our guarantee." If Hezbollah feels reassured that any guarantees vis-à-vis change result from the regional political equation, it is natural for it to not respond to the calls for openness. The party now feels more energized, with the Syrian regime's ability to achieve progress with its "security solution,” which is the only solution it has.
This does not mean that the initiative by 14 March was pointless. The coalition might have to flesh the proposal out and be diligent in presenting it to the public, which is searching for some light at the end of the long, dark Lebanese tunnel. More importantly, the members of March 14 might have to continue dialogue among themselves, transparently, as we saw with some of the criticism by some activists about their performance during the rally they held two days ago, and in the television debates that followed.
The writer is a columist and political commentator. This article first appeared in Dar Al Hayat on March 16, 2012