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Lebanon rebirth imminent

(ALF view of Lebanon's rebirth with necessary reforms)

Lebanonwire.com 5/27/05

Since the Syrian decision to force Lebanon to amend its constitution in order to extend the mandate of President Emile Lahoud, there has been a rapid succession of bad news, good news that continues until now at a rapid pace.

Despite the apparent resistance of the majority of Lebanese to the extension, the good news was that the constitution was allegedly amended to give President Lahoud the opportunity to implement the political and administrative reforms that he was not able to accomplish during his six years term.

The bad news quickly followed when a government was formed of predominantly Syrian followers and included some of the most mistrusted names available.

Nevertheless, some good news followed by the emergence of a credible multi-confessional opposition that had a good chance to win the anticipated parliamentary elections. But that new hope was shattered by the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. However, the reaction of the Lebanese people to Hariri's martyrdom resulted in new hopes for the rebirth of Lebanon. The Cedar Revolution brought together Christians and Moslems closer than they have ever been in recent years, and the massive demonstrations pro and against Syria all displayed an ocean of Lebanese flags suggesting that national unity was still within reach, despite the difference of opinion on the Syrian presence. The resignation of the "Made In Syria" government increased optimism about the immediate and long-term future.

However, due to a combination of persistent post-withdrawal Syrian influence and some controversial or at least questionable maneuvers by some opposition leaders, the long anticipated spring vote had to proceed under the despicable 2000 Electoral Law that was engineered to produce an easy to control pro-Syrian parliament. The 2000 Electoral Law is not just unfair to Christians, it also marginalizes Shiites who are not subservient to Hezbollah and Amal as well as Sunnis and Druzes who do not march under the banner of the Hariri and Jounblatt leadership. And all this is happening "supposedly" to comply with the American pressure to perform the elections within the constitutional deadlines!

Does that mean the demise of the Lebanese Spring and The Cedar Revolution? The American Lebanese Foundation (ALF) refuses to allow negative phases in the Lebanese rebirth process to dampen hope and enthusiasm about the anticipated better future. We continuously look for the positive signs on the Lebanese scene and we individually and collectively act on the US scene to promote whatever is best for Lebanon and the US at any given point in time.

ALF is encouraged by the signs of good will displayed by dominant opposition factions who benefited from the 2000 Electoral Law towards those caught at a disadvantage. ALF Also appreciates the continued dialogue among various segments of the opposition who differ on certain issues and lauds also dialogue between some in the opposition and various previously pro-Syrian leaders. ALF believes that dialogue is the best and probably the only option for the Lebanese people to protect and secure national unity. ALF deplores the episode of terrorist bombings that followed the Syrian withdrawal and hopes such techniques are now history. ALF salutes the Lebanese people who courageously refused to respond violently to these provocations and hopes that the elections will bring to power a government of true national unity who will have the strength to discourage and control with a golden arm any attempt at provoking sectarian strife or any form of violence or destabilization.

ALF sincerely hopes that as Lebanon is being born again the following priorities will be respected:

1. REFORMS: The first and foremost focus should be at reforms: political and judiciary first, followed by administrative overhaul. These should be aimed at eliminating corruption and graft. ALF is encouraged by statements made by key opposition leaders: General Aoun and Saad Hariri regarding requesting an International Audit to determine who robbed the national treasury and applauds the statements of all politicians demanding responsibility and accountability. ALF also applauds the courage of individuals or groups who are bringing to attention and to justice any falsification of important documents, be it financial, academic or otherwise, so that Lebanon recovers the high standards of credibility necessary for survival and prosperity.

2. DIALOGUE: The dialogue among various factions from the opposition and previous Syrian allies should continue to reach a new true national consensus that responds to the aspirations of all the Lebanese people, away from interference or pressure from close or distant influences.

3. NATIONAL UNITY: Which has eluded the post Taif era under Syrian influence or hegemony should be a realistic goal in a free and sovereign Lebanon. If the Lebanese, at this time do not achieve consensus and unity, they will have nobody to blame but themselves.

4. PATRIOTISM: Should become the modus vivendi for the politicians in the born again Lebanon and the common interest should supersede the personal interest. Also long-term goals should be kept in mind and not be eclipsed by short-term benefit.

5. BRIDGING EAST AND WEST: It should always be remembered that Lebanon's true destiny is to serve as a bridge between East and West and not a field for proxy wars. Past experience has clearly demonstrated that making Lebanon a field of various wars, has destroyed the country without really helping neither the neighbors nor fellow Arabs. A reborn Lebanon should help fellow Arabs in the academic and intellectual competition for progress and modernization and should serve for the dialogue of civilizations and as an admirable example of peaceful and productive conviviality between Christians and Moslems, which should discourage the concept of clash of civilizations.

6. EXPATRIATE RELATIONS: The born again Lebanon should recognize the positive role of the expatriate community by creating institutions and initiating legislation that facilitates their input into the political process and encourage their return to invest and support an economic turn around.

7. POLITICAL METAMORPHOSIS: ALF believes that political change is inevitable and elimination of confessionalism is crucial, yet should be a gradual process that needs to culminate in a secure feeling for all religious groups that form the Lebanese mosaic. Immediate priorities should be to insist that all administrative appointments are made on merit first and far from loyalties to specific leaders. While it would be wise to respect balance, to avoid provoking insecurities, the merit principle will gradually allow disregarding the confessional and political background. Another important priority is to consider separating the posts of cabinet ministers from parliamentary seats, hopefully to a large extent if not completely in the first government following the May/June elections.

8. THE ECONOMY: Last, but not least, ALF believes that a free, independent, sovereign and democratic Lebanon, respecting the above stated principles and priorities, will start promptly solving its economic problems and progressing rapidly towards balance and prosperity. Further, President George W. Bush, President Jacques Chirac and many Arab and world leaders have promised lots of help. We believe that controlling corruption and graft alone will make a difference. Adding all the other factors certainly makes us very optimistic.

ALF truly hopes that despite the hurdles and dangers, which still need to be overcome, Lebanon will soon find itself on a sure path to redemption and prosperity for the best interest of all the Lebanese people whether living in the country or abroad. ALF also stands ready to work with the Diaspora and the US Administration to guide and support Lebanon on its path to being reborn as a country of brotherhood, peace and true democracy, enjoying excellent relations with fellow Arabs and having the opportunity to promote understanding and cooperation with the US, Europe and the rest of the world.

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