In October 2016, the Lebanese finally headed to a consensual presidential election after two years and a half of presidential vacuum. Though under a prolonged intense and vast critique from its own public opinion, the Lebanese demonstrated a capacity to arrive at dual agreements, where most parties directly participated to pull the country out of the crisis.
Amidst a boiling region tremendously susceptible to the threat of ISIS and regional turmoil, Lebanon was able to maintain reasonable stability and steadfast capacity to hold itself together. Despite opposing forces that seem out of synchronicity with one another, all forces showed a true intention to move the situation forward independent of their interests and subjective national vision.
Many would argue that the prolonged void was destructive, ineffective, and even, threatening. However, out of the sight of those was the hidden intention for long term stability. While some are not fans of President Michel Aoun, the endorsement of most parties, shows a true intention to build a constructive future that includes all opposing powers. Most parties wisely realized and decided exclusion is not a solution neither an option.
In a country that left a 15-year old civil war behind (1975-1990), and which is composed of eighteen different sects, there became no choice but to co-exist. While many in Lebanon agree a few primary laws should be amended, revisited or legislated, parties did not stop at constitutional problems but used sophisticated communication skills to arrive at complex agreements that are not only security sensitive but also identity sensitive.
This case shows that in the absence of governmental interference, intentions and good will matter. In that specific situation, it was not only intriguing but also promising to see each party taking ownership and also pride for removing the country from the presidential void it suffered, rejoicing with the success it feels it owns.
In 2005, at the assassination of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, most people thought the country got divided. However, that division played in the country’s favor. Many countries in the world look up to the US, a powerful democracy composed of only two major parties, that enjoys incredible stability. The Lebanese naturally split themselves in a two-group situation, where dealing with only two opposing poles simplified matters.
That division, has in a way, organized the political scenery where the number of political parties and sects for such a small country is overwhelming. Where many saw that the country got divided, it was a mere authentic re-organization, based not on religion, similar to the destructive Christian-Islamic religious split of the Lebanese civil war, but based more on deep values, and historical loyalties. It exhibited the healthy right and left inclinations each country naturally holds.
During the negotiations stage, each party postured a bit. Though each party got criticized for delaying the process and creating hurdles, that posturing created a new opportunity at each turn to arrive at win-win solutions between historically opposing powers. While it seems uncivil to have a country with no president, there seemed to be a benefit to that void situation, as each party has taken infinite time not only to negotiate with the other, but also to understand the other, hear the other, and then arrive at win-win solutions. If it were not for the crisis, this would have never been possible.
While only one major party chose to remain ousted, it was a voluntary decision. Nevertheless, having that party kept on the outside, makes it an effective opposition and creates a healthy situation in a place most major powers have made constructive and consensual decisions. That situation makes that party align with the people’s voice, and that’s an interest this particular party has always voiced, especially after the eruption of a civil movement in 2015 asking for the change of the political class. Though many peoples might disapprove the alignment of any political group next to their voice, it’s a safe and balanced place for that party to take, before a possible change of scenery could ever happen.
Having arrived at things consensually, the Lebanese exhibited a capacity to throw differences behind. The current situation has authentically created an excellent framework for a possible reconciliation. While agreements have been made and consensus had been arrived at, healing historical wounds remain at the door, and seems not an impossible or an unrealistic dream it once was.
Having arrived at that place authentically and voluntarily creates a healthy ground for true reconciliation. Parties representing major sects or groups should be able to define true and major fears and threats they exclusively and constantly face as a separate group. In the past, parties occasionally conducted round table dialogues that, according to many, were not a very effective instrument for resolving problems from the root.
Root level solutions lie in acknowledging, hearing and validating one another. A national plan should be created for parties to hear each other’s fears, without judging each another, or accusing one another of exaggeration, or serving non-national agendas. Most of the time, fears are true, and are not self-fabricated. True compassion and a spirit of brotherhood are required.
Agreeing to unite, and to protect one another of those fears and threats against outsiders is essential. There is no reason to discredit one another. Loyalty should be to the inside where a true non fake spirit of brotherhood should be intentionally targeted. Doubt, suspicion, and lack of trust should be left behind. Each group should be trusted to assess their own threats. Healing the past and building a constructive future lie in one word: Trust.
If the Lebanese heal past wounds, they not only will be able to become a role model of stability, peace and co-existence to the region and the world, but will exemplify the importance of negotiations, going hand in hand with the rule of law. While the rule of law is a holy power and a primary wing, negotiations is another wing, most countries should use to soar above divisions, hate and prejudice, as no real security comes without listening, understanding, or adopting a true good-willed cooperation.
The question that now lies is whether the Lebanese will use that same intention and human power to facilitate future reconciliation to take parties to forgiveness and the healing of historical wounds, or will they continue to remain focused on the mere technical side of creating consensus they now have started creatively mastering. That’s a question, only the Lebanese, as well as time, will be able to answer..
Disclaimer: Alia Ismail is a dedicated neutral. She endorses no specific party, nor interested in any sort of political engagements. She complies with American and international laws of sovereignty for national and foreign matters. She is dedicated to a commercial career in mediation but occasionally responds to public disputes in a pro bono capacity. She is a US citizen. Her writings are academic and do not intend to attack, criticize, demean nor demonize any foreign or local sovereignties or groups. Her reconciliation writings are inspired by her Professor and faith-based diplomat Reverend Cannon Brian Cox.
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