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Lebanon: Who Turned on Who? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is an Arabic saying that goes: “Always try to find 1000 justifications for your brothers.”

In this context, the brothers of the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt are his partners in the historical political movement, the March 14 Coalition. Because he broke away from the alliance a few days ago, there is now strong sentiment against him, almost accusing him of treason even though changing positions is a natural thing for politicians to do and should not surprise anyone. Now, his comrades must think carefully before casting accusations against him. The man served as a pillar to their movement, and pointing the finger at him would mean pointing the finger at five important years. Moreover, they ought to thank Jumblatt for being the movement’s sharpest weapon and changing Lebanon’s political scene for good. They should look at Jumblatt’s departure as retirement, and that another party accepting him is less practical because it’s like a military general defecting after the war is over. Believe me, the Lebanese war is practically over.

Jumblatt should not be blamed for leaving the coalition. There is a big difference in politics between the “brotherhood of a party” and the “partnership of a coalition.” The March 14 Coalition is a coalition, not a party. Its members represent several parties. Therefore, just like all coalitions around the world, members change according to the circumstances, and circumstances are subject to drastic changes on all levels. The Lebanon of today is not the Lebanon of 2005. It is only natural that alliances break up. Whoever listens to the disputes over the formation of the next cabinet will see that they are linked to providing services and local interests rather than strategic issues.

Just like many others, I was not convinced by Jumblatt’s justifications for leaving the coalition. He claimed that he feared Sunni-Shia clashes in the future. Jumblatt is an unrivalled leader of the Druze and is the person who decides to stay out of every battle. Everyone testifies to the fact that the Druze society is the most formidable Lebanese group on the outside and the most cohesive on the inside. But Jumblatt decided to play politics, the fast-pace game of changing axes and interests.

The March 14 Coalition was established to achieve clear objectives, most of which have been realized for example, the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon and the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the killing of Rafik al Hariri. Today, we are on the verge of a new regional chapter. The transformation has actually taken place within the other camp. Syria, the main party of the March 8 Alliance, has moved away from the position it was in five years ago. Syria now wants rapprochement with Washington, an ally of the March 14 Coalition, and to enter negotiations with Israel, an excuse that is always used for confronting opponents in Lebanon, from taking up arms to supporting Hezbollah and taking up the positions of the foreign state.

If Damascus gets close to Riyadh and Washington, the main dispute will be over. Syria took steps towards the March 14 Coalition and not Jumblatt who broke away. Furthermore, it must be said that the defection of any ally of any party is not important anymore, because the key issues have been resolved. It no longer matters how the Hariri tribunal will end because it is away from Lebanese soil. More importantly, the changing of positions is no longer surprising due to the multiplicity, and conflicting nature of political axes. General Aoun surprised everyone by allying with the pro-Syrian axis after having spent 15 years at war with it. Even though it is rare to see invariable factors within the Lebanese political arena, the endurance and perseverance of the March 14 Coalition as a popular current representing various spectrums has become a very interesting phenomenon, especially as it is the current that is threatened on a daily basis with assassination and pursuit.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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