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‘National dialogue’ - a waste of time in Lebanon

The basis of national dialogue is national defense strategy. Yet, the circumstances are not appropriate to discuss this issue.

Nayla Tueni

Published: Updated:

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's move to call for a national dialogue session may be apt as it is allows leaders who are not part of the government to meet.

Recently, the need to bring these leaders together so they agree over the many controversial issues has increased. However, calling for a national dialogue session at this particular time means Hezbollah will have to publicly approve the Baabda Declaration which condemns its intervention in the Syrian war.

Lebanon is stuck amid the Syrian war, Saudi-Iranian tension, Qatari-Gulf tension, the situation in Egypt and the threat of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. Therefore, any agreement - even a domestic one - is hard to implement because no regional sponsorship is available.

Nayla Tueni

That means that if others inquire about this issue, the party will have to confront them. It would also mean that Hezbollah will expose its incapability of justifying this intervention and convincing others of it and also of its incapability to pledge it will withdraw from Syria.

Stage not set for dialogue

The basis of national dialogue is a national defense strategy. Yet, the circumstances are not appropriate to discuss this issue. Lebanon is stuck amid the Syrian war, Saudi-Iranian tensions, Qatari-Gulf tension, the situation in Egypt and the threat of surging refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

Therefore, any agreement - even if domestic - is hard to implement because no regional sponsorship is available. Distant relationships and disputes inevitably lead to obstruction. This raises suspicion about meeting the constitutional deadline to elect a new president.

If the national dialogue committee convenes to discuss the shortage of water or the garbage crisis or other similar issues, it would then be cancelling the cabinet's role and taking the country hostage of an unconstitutional committee that legislates and approves decisions as per its mood. This is not what's required of a committee which was formed to reach agreements during critical times.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has used Michel Suleiman's statements on "wood and gold" as a justification to boycott the dialogue session. Hezbollah, like the other parties, does not have any new suggestions to make during national dialogue sessions, especially that there's nothing in the horizon hinting that any initiative will be welcomed.

Hezbollah has also confirmed that everyone is perhaps not willing to present gains to a president whose term ends in two months. It is fully aware that its current well-studied escalatory measures - which are perhaps not linked to the president's stances - will intimidate presidential candidates, limit their aspirations and push them towards sealing secret deals so they earn approval and votes at parliament.

If national dialogue - even when launched out of patriotic aims - achieves gains, it's still a waste of time.

This article was first published in al-Nahar on March 24, 2014.
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Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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