LEBANON: Suleiman supports fight against Israel
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The United States along with most other countries enthusiastically supported the ascent of army Chief of Staff Michel Suleiman as president of Lebanon.
To many, he appears to be a beacon of stability for the country. But don’t expect the Maronite Christian to change the country’s position on the staunchest of U.S. allies in the Middle East, Israel.
In his inaugural speech to parliament today, he affirmed the right of the Hezbollah-led ‘resistance’ to confront Israel and obtain a disputed piece of property under Israeli occupation called the Shebaa Farms:
The continuing occupation of Shebaa Farms and the breaches and threats by the enemy [Israel] compel us to find a defense strategy that protects the nation coupled with a calm dialog to benefit from the competence of the resistance so that the achievements of the resistance are not consumed in internal struggles. And this way we can preserve its values and its national position.
He also said Lebanon would continue to refuse to grant the 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon passports in order to keep alive their dream of returning to a viable Palestinian state:
Our rejection of giving them nationality is not a rejection of hosting of our brothers the Palestinians and caring for their human rights, but an establishment of their right of return when a viable state is formed.
But much of Suleiman’s speech was focused on healing the country’s recent self-inflicted wounds. Below are more excerpts from a rough, unofficial Los Angeles Times translation:
We would have liked to start our mandate with minutes of joy, but I am sure that our silence will be hailed by the spirits of our martyrs who are close to our God, since it establishes a new promising phase for the children of the nation who are awakening from a sleep, thanks to their awareness and their rejection of killing one another, and thanks to the work of the loyal ones and the brothers for bringing down the sins and wiping out the repercussions. Today through my constitutional oath, I call on you all, political forces and citizens, to start a new phase with Lebanon and the Lebanese as its headline, and with a commitment to a national project we agree on with a progressive mind that serves the nation and its interests as a priority before our sectarian interests. The political stability we are looking for compels us to empower constitutional institutions, where political ideas and differences should remain, in order to reach common aspects guaranteeing the interest of the nation and its children.
The political dispute and the constitutional complications it generated should constitute an incentive to us not only to find solutions to what we might fall into in the future but also to reach the needed balance between rights and duties so as to allow institutions including the presidency to fulfill their duties. Lebanon the nation, the message, characterized by bringing civilizations together and by its distinguished diversity, drives us to work together to repair our political and administrative situation as well as the economic and security ones, and to bring the nation back on the world map and play an exemplary role reflecting its uniqueness and its usual brightness. . . .
Eminent lawmakers, the people have entrusted us to fulfill their ambitions and not to puzzle them with our narrow political disputes. What was most dangerous during the last years were political speeches revolving around betrayal and accusations leading to distance and dispute, especially among the youth. Therefore, we should be aware and work on consolidating the nation and unity by promoting the dialogue of cultures and not by turning it into an arena for struggles. The main quality of democracy is the rotation of power through free elections. It’s important to adopt a fair electoral law that strengthens the relationship between the voter and the elected and guarantees that the choices and the visions of the people are achieved. But what is more important is accepting the results of these elections and respecting the will of the people. The independence of the judiciary safeguards justice and provides a haven for every righteous person. . . . It is our responsibility to encourage young talents to join the public sector to prevent it from wearing out and to allow us to reach a more efficient and younger administration. . . . Ladies and gentlemen, dissipating the fears of young men and women is achieved by building a nation they feel proud to belong to and that rises with their capacities, their experiences and their participation in finding solutions. Let them, they who resisted terrorism and occupation and revolted for independence, lead us out of our failures. They are the future. . . .
Getting out of recession and strengthening the economic cycle requires political stability and security as well as sponsoring from the state that encourages and promotes a competitive productive process. Attracting investments and finding a friendly environment for that leads to fighting unemployment and containing emigration. . . . Abiding by the charter of the United Nations and respecting its decisions is the result of our solid belief in international legitimacy, which is derived from right and justice. We emphasize our participation in the establishment of the international tribunal for Prime Minister [Rafik] Hariri’s assassination. . . . This day coincides with the national anniversary of the liberation and the victory. Let this be an incentive for us to be more aware of the traps and to renew our attachment to freedom and democracy. . . . And here comes the role of perseverance to liberate our prisoners and uncover the fate of the disappeared and bring back our sons who have sought refuge in Israel. The nation is wide enough for everybody. We have always been keen on strengthening the bonds that link us to our brothers the Arabs, and in this respect we look strongly for brotherly relations between Lebanon and Syria based on mutual respect, sovereignty and diplomatic ties. . . . The state cannot ignore any violation of security and peace and will not allow in any case that some would be used as a fuel for terrorism and that some use the holiness of the Palestinian cause to arm themselves leading to insecurity, like last year when the army was attacked. . . . The armed forces and mainly the army have gained the trust of the Lebanese people during the last years for their historical and important achievements: preserving democracy and civil peace, deploying in the south after more than three decades, and facing the enemy and terrorism. And they paid their best men as a price. But the latest security incidents left a feeling that the armed forces did not carry well their duties. Therefore keeping a minimum level of entente and providing a political cover are important in preventing incidents in the future. . . . Lebanese men and women, a lot is awaiting us, my oath is a commitment from my side. . . . We won’t drown in promises. We will approach the realities on the ground with our capacities and taking advantage of the support of our brothers and friends to overcome difficulties. Let’s unite and move forward toward a firm reconciliation to provide our children with hope and launch pioneering and creative initiatives and work to achieve a capable civil state based on the respect of public liberties, beliefs and freedom of expression. We paid a dear price for our national unity. Let us preserve it together, and God stands with the community. Long live Lebanon.
—Raed Rafei in Beirut
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