Hezbollah’s call for dialogue over defense strategy widely rejected by Lebanese parties

File photo of a parade by the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group . Hezbollah was the only militia allowed to keep its arms during Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. Hezbollah has become so strong it is stronger than the Lebanese army . Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist organization by the US, some Arab and EU counties and Australia
File photo of a parade by the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group . Hezbollah was the only militia allowed to keep its arms during Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. Hezbollah has become so strong it is stronger than the Lebanese army . Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist organization by the US, some Arab and EU counties and Australia

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s call on Lebanese political forces to hold dialogue over a national defense strategy has been widely rejected by his rivals.

In remarks marking “Resistance and Liberation” Day on Wednesday, Nasrallah suggested that the dialogue would pave the way for Lebanon to drill for offshore gas and oil.

“Lebanon has a massive oil and gas wealth and we are by standing idly while the enemy [Israel] is signing contracts with the European Union to provide gas to replace Russia’s,” he remarked.

“Lebanon’s problems can only be resolved through the gas and oil in its regional waters. So let us see how we can extract and protect it,” he stated.

His call was widely rejected by opponents, who cited previous rounds of dialogue over a defense strategy, held in 2006, 2008 and 2011.

Instead of new talks and “wasting time”, they suggested the implementation of the agreements reached during those dialogue sessions. They added that Lebanon has pressing internal crises that need to be addressed, such as negotiations with the IMF, approving reforms and tackling the electricity file

Lebanese Forces MP Fadi Karam described dialogue as a “waste of time”.

Hezbollah has proposed dialogue to “avert attention from the results of the parliamentary elections that proved that the people reject the party and its weapons,” he added to Asharq Al-Awsat.

The polls confirmed that the people “long to build a real state, one that is sovereign and where weapons and the decisions of war and peace are limited to it and the army.”

Hezbollah and its allies lost their parliamentary majority in the elections, with the LF and independent opposition newcomers emerging as the main winners.

Nasrallah’s proposal is aimed at “wasting time and the opportunities that were created by the elections, during which the Lebanese voted for Lebanon and the beginning of recovery,” continued Karam.

Moreover, he declared that dialogue with Hezbollah “is rejected because we have tried so in the past,” but it insisted on “wasting time and squandering opportunities.”

The 2011 dialogue outcomes that called for Lebanon’s neutrality and its disassociation from region conflicts were dashed by Hezbollah, which did not respect those agreements, he added.

“Hezbollah practices politics based on Iran’s instructions and the interests of the Iranian negotiator,” he remarked.

The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) shared Karam’s view, stressing at the same time that it backs dialogue between Lebanese parties.

PSP sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that none of the dialogue outcomes have been respected in recent years and in the end, it turned out that these talks were a “waste of time”.

Dialogue was held in 2006 at the invitation of parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. It was held again in 2011 at the invite of then President Michel Suleiman.

“We no longer have the luxury of time to hold dialogue for the sake of dialogue,” added the sources.

We need to approve a defense strategy and not just hold talks over it. Once approved, we can discuss other issues,” they suggested.

“There can be no reform without sovereignty,” they stated.

Lebanese parties insist that the decision of war and peace should be restricted to the state. The possession of weapons and defending Lebanon should be restricted to the army and state institutions. They refuse for Lebanon to be an open arena for regional wars and conflicts.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, insists on keeping its weapons. It has called for drafting a defense strategy to resist Israel should any attack happen.

Nasrallah’s remarks came as he marked 22 years since Israel’s withdrawal from South Lebanon. His ally president Michel Aoun made similar remarks

On May 24, 2000, Israel completed its withdrawal from Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, thus ending a 22-year military presence there since the First Lebanon War began in 1982. All IDF troops were pulled out of the region and all IDF and South Lebanon Army (SLA) outposts were evacuated and destroyed.

Hezbollah, which was credited with liberating Lebanese territories from Israel in 2000 was a very popular organization in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world. But according to analysts ever since the Lebanese territories were liberated Hezbollah has become a huge liability for Lebanon.

In 2005 former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri along with 22 others we assassinated and 3 Hezbollah members were indicted in his murder by the UN backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in absentia because Nasrallah  refused to hand them over to the court.

In 2006 Hezbollah kidnapped 3 Israeli soldiers which triggered a war with Israel that devastated Lebanon’s infrastructure . Soon after the war ended Hezbollah occupied downtown Beirut and tried to use its arms internally to bring down the government of former PM Fouad Siniora.

In 2008 Hezbollah pointed its guns against the Lebanese people when it occupied more than half of Beirut and tried but failed to occupy Mt Lebanon .

In 2011 it brought down the government of former PM Saad Hariri and reportedly used its arms to force progressive socialist party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and his parliamentary bloc to vote for their candidate Nagib Mikati as the new premier .

Hezbollah’s support for the Syrian regime and the Iran backed Houthi rebels in Yemen violate Lebanon’s policy of distancing itself from regional conflicts . Hezbollah signed off on the policy during dialogue talks at the Baabda palace in 2011 .

Hezbollah and its backer Iran were  blamed for the   29 month of presidential vacuum in Lebanon. Hezbollah insisted on having its ally Free patriotic Movement founder General Michel Aoun as the president 

Under Aoun everything collapsed in Lebanon 

Under Aoun Lebanon defaulted for the first time on its public debt

Under Aoun the Lebanese currency collapsed and lost more than 95 % of its value . The exchange rate was set at 1500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar since 1997 and the most recent parallel market rate was 37,000 to the dollar.

Under Aoun 3 in four Lebanese were declared by the UN as poor .

Asharq Al Awsat/ YL