Across the Bay

Monday, February 07, 2005

Separate Lives

Add this (Arabic) to Jumblat's latest statements on Lebanon, Syria and Israel (see also my previous posts "Jumblat's Sarcasm" and "Jumblat and Hizbullah"):

    AFP reported Jumblat's statements in today's issue of the magazine "Politique Internationale" where he expressed his support for the separation of the Lebanese and Syrian tracks in the peace negotiations with Israel. He said: "According to Damascus, Syria needs to keep its guardianship over Lebanon as long as there is no peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and no independent Palestinian state, and no liberation of the Golan. That can take decades. I say, 'no.' I am therefore with the separation of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks." He added: "I think we need to go back to the 1948 armistice" with Israel.

Jumblat keeps crossing all the lines set forth by the Syrians, and challenging all the taboos that the Syrians have carefully crafted in Lebanon for the last 30 years. This line about the unity of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks was a standard formula, among others, and its memorization and regurgitation was required and expected from the Syrian-installed Lebanese political class. There was an anecdote once (written by Michael Young in an op-ed) about the mechanical recitation of another standard line: "the Syrian presence is legal, necessary and temporary." Back when Hariri was still Prime Minister, he was asked about this in a news conference or what have you, and he jumbled the order of the line mixing up legal and necessary, and was promptly corrected by another politican! Well, not anymore. Everything is being challenged.

Jumblat repeated his stance on the Shebaa Farms:

    He saw that there were two ways to reclaim the Shebaa Farms in South Lebanon, captured from Syria by Israel in 1967, and which Beirut is now asking for with Syrian backing. He continued: "it's either by military force, which is an option thanks to Hizbullah, or through legal action. The second option will not happen unless the Syrian government sends documents to the UN asserting that the Farms belong to Lebanon, which is what the Syrians have refused to do so far." Responding to a question on the UN demand that the Syrian forces pull out of Lebanon Jumblat said: "one thing is certain: a Lebanese government under the total guardianship of Syria will never initiate such negotiations." That's why "it's time we bring to power an independent government that represents the people and that is able to dialogue freely with our neighbor (Syria)."

Jumblat's aim (and that of the opposition) is clear: complete dismantling of the Syrian edifice in Lebanon as it has stood for the last 30 years. You can bet that there are two major causes for this development: the American invasion of Iraq and its shift in policy toward Lebanon and Syria, and Bashar's political miscalculations (prompted by the pressure from the former element). The Maronite Patriarch had it right (after returning from a meeting with Chirac): now is the time to move, lending full support for UNSCR 1559. And that's why Jumblat (and the opposition) is not looking back.