Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bishara Boutros Al-Ra’i, sounded determined as ever to forge ahead with his campaign about Lebanon neutrality towards regional conflicts despite opposition form Hezbollah and its allies as he presided Sunday evening, over a Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon, Harisa to pray for saving Lebanon on the occasion marking Saint Charbel’s Day.
The mass was attended by the head of Lawyers syndicate lawyer Melhem Khalaf, and several other officials
After addressing the youth he talked about the issue of neutrality, saying: “In the mass of the fifth of this month, I proposed a system of neutrality to save Lebanon from eastern and western isolation. The proposal received wide support and formed a basis for many articles, and most Lebanese found it as a light at the end of a tunnel that is dark politically, economically, financially and socially.
He added: “I have clarified a lot about the system of neutrality , and a lot has been said and written about it. I would like here to add some ideas.
If we review the data of successive governments from 1943 to 1980, we find that all them adopted policies that called for ” neutrality and non-alignment” and promoted relations of mutual respect and cooperation and distanced themselves from regional and international alliances and conflicts. “
He added : “The system of neutrality protects Lebanon’s fate from being lost in the game of nations, and from the dangers of tampering with its identity .
The “system of neutrality” is the responsibility of all of us . “Bias destroys our nation , while impartiality saves it.
He told the youth : The system of neutrality of Lebanon is now in your custody and should be a key objective of “your revolution.”
Ever since he started his campaign earlier this month to declare Lebanon as a neutral state, Patriarch Ra’i has been visited by several Muslim and Christian politicians and foreign envoys .
As was widely expected his call for Lebanon’s neutrality drew mixed reactions. While Future Movement leader and former PM Saad Hariri , Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Progressive Socialist leader Walid Jumblatt and several other leaders declared their support for Lebanon’s neutrality , Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and their allies did not openly attack the concept but their actions are a clear indication of their disapproval.
Hezbollah which considers itself a part of the so called axis of resistance is opposed to neutrality.
Hezbollah was created by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in 1982 . It is now a unit of IRGC’s Quds force and its leader Hassan Nasrallah pledged his allegiance to Iran ‘s supreme leader last September .
Hezbollah has been under pressure to counter the Patriarch’s campaign for Lebanon’s neutrality . Following Patriarch ‘s meeting with Aoun earlier last week , Hezbollah sent a delegation of Shiite Muslim scholars to Aoun,
Hezbollah then sent the Iranian ambassador to Patriarch Rai at his summer residence to convince the Patriarch of Iran’s capability to help Lebanon, Sensing no change in his resolve , Hezbollah sent PM Hassan Diab to visit the patriarch on Saturday and today it sent Aoun’s son- in-law MP Gebran Bassil to visit the Patriarch . All these actions strengthened patriarch Rai’s resolve and he vowed to continue with his neutrality campaign till the very end .
“Lebanon was open to all countries, east and west, except Israel which occupied our land. Lebanon was Switzerland of the east … Today, Lebanon has become isolated from the whole world. This is not our identity. Our identity is positive and constructive neutrality, not a warrior Lebanon,” the Patriarch was quoted as saying following his meeting with Aoun last week.
Following his meeting with the Muslim Scholars Aoun declared that neutral or not Lebanon should be able to defend itself . In other words he is hinting that Hezbollah should be allowed to keep its arms as long as some parts of Lebanon are still occupied by Israel. Aoun signed a an agreement with Hezbollah in 2006 on behalf of the Free Patriotic Movement , and reportedly feels indebted to Hezbollah for his presidency.
Following Diab’s meeting with the Patriarch he declared that the issue of neutrality is political and requires dialogue by the political parties . Diab too reportedly feels indebted to Hezbollah for designating him as the PM
Similarly Bassil said after meeting with the Patriarch that the issue of neutrality requires dialogue but agreed with the patriarch that Lebanon should be distanced from regional conflicts, signaling a possible change in FPM ‘s relations with Hezbollah may be in the works . Bassil heads up the Free patriotic Movement , whose founder is Aoun .
The islamic scholars that visited Aoun expressed complete opposition to neutrality . Supreme Shiite Council head Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan went as far as equating neutrality with treason.
“It is ridiculous and mean to find someone sympathizing with the traitors and agents under different slogans seeking to distort the image of Lebanon as a resisting country that defeated the Zionist enemy, with the aim of pulling it out of the struggle with an oppressive enemy that is still occupying our lands and repeatedly violating our sovereignty, in addition to stealing our water and oil wealth,” Kabalan said
Rai is stressing in his sermons the importance of Lebanon’s neutrality an implicit criticism of Hezbollah over its support for Iran in conflicts with Gulf Arab states. Hezbollah has been accused by its opponents of influencing the government’s policy and implementing Iran’s agenda in Lebanon, in addition to violating the government’s dissociation policy with its deep involvement in the 9-year-old war in Syria and its intervention in other regional conflicts such as Iraq , Bahrain and Yemen .
While Hezbollah is funded by Iran Lebanon needs to survive on its own and cannot depend on any other country for its survival .
In order for Lebanon to survive financially it needs the help of the International monetary fund which is ready to help according to the negotiations that have been taking place but is demanding the implementation of the reforms that PM Hassan Diab’s government promised .
But Hezbollah which along with its allies is the main backer of Diab refuses to allow Diab to implement the reforms .
Without financial help Lebanon cannot survive .
Hezbollah has been urging Lebanon to look east to Iran, and China for help
But Iran like Lebanon is broke because of the sanctions and the horror stories about China and its debts scare the Lebanese.
Lebanon has always looked, to the Arab Gulf countries and to the West (Europe and the US ) for financial help and Patriarch Rai knows this and also knows that unless Lebanon is neutral, free and independent sovereign nation the Arab Gulf countries and the West won’t help .
“The system of neutrality requires the presence of a state that is strong with its army, institutions, law and justice and is capable of defending itself, closing the ranks of its people and creating political stability and economic growth,” Rai said in his Sunday Mass and added. “The system of neutrality is not a sectarian, individual or imported proposal. It is meant to recover our Lebanese identity and is the door to lifeline to all the Lebanese without exceptions.”
Rai sought to reassure all parties that Lebanon’s neutrality did not mean opening up to Israel, which is considered an “enemy” state.
“With the 1943 National Pact that stipulated balanced coexistence and equality in rights and duties among the nation’s components, the Lebanese Republic announced its neutrality with the legal and international perception, meaning Lebanon’s adherence to neutrality between the East and the West, whereby it will adhere to issues of justice, peace and stability and protect human rights and the rights of the people and open up to all states, except Israel due to the state of enmity and occupation,” he said. today
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