By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
It seems that Lebanon is one of the intended countries targeted by the “deal of the century,” for the “deal” does not only seek to end the Palestine issue, but also to rearrange the regional environment surrounding Palestine, occupied by Israel, so as to serve US-Israeli interests. These include the liquidation of the Palestinian refugee question, blocking any attempt of civilizational and unity revival, which would redirect the compass of regional conflict from an Arab-Israeli one towards an ethnic sectarian one, and where Israel would stand alongside US allies facing Iran and its regional allies.
Consequently, Lebanon would be within targeting range, being one of the ring countries around Israel, whose political system must be adjusted to be in line with the US policy, or at least to ensure that it is neutralized and ineffective in opposing “the deal.” The Palestinian refugees issue would also be solved there, whether by facilitating their immigration or by naturalizing them and granting them Lebanese citizenship.
In the past few days, there were increasing talks about US attempts to make Lebanon part of the deal. News and “rumors” spread of US and Gulf political contacts made with Lebanese personalities and parties to explore the possibility of passing the deal, and that the economy and finance are used to encourage stances supporting the deal. The enormous suffering of the Lebanese economy, the growing public debt, the large budget deficit, and the chronic problems of living such as electricity and others… can be all solved with US-Western-Gulf support, if the effective Lebanese parties—or most of them—gave the green light to the deal’s requirements. Furthermore, the problems of oil and gas exploration in the Lebanese coast, its investment and export would be all solved, without any Israeli objections or obstacles.
According to US-plan leakages, $6 billion would be allocated, and five projects to support the Lebanese economy would be executed, as part of implementing the deal.
At the same time, there are indicators that the ruling system in Lebanon—in case it did not comply with the requirements—would be left alone to cope with its problems and economic crises.
What is required from Lebanon can be summed up in two points:
First: Founding a political environment that approves the “deal,” or at least that does not hinder its success or passage.
In this context, “normalization,” dealing with (Lebanese and Palestinian) resistance weapons and taking them out of the conflict’s formula or neutralizing them are proposed, so that they will not be a cause of worry to Israel in the future.
Of course, communications and US-Gulf visits [to Lebanon] are meant to go in this direction… However, the public refuses normalization as well as negotiating over the resistance weapons, especially when talking about the conflict with Israel. Despite the fact that some important Lebanese forces and movements see the importance of organizing resistance weapons and keeping it outside the Lebanese internal politics.
Despite Hizbullah is being under an immense financial pressure (since it is the main resistance force in Lebanon), its ability to hold its ground, and its considerable weight in the Lebanese decision-making process, in addition to the fact that there are other Lebanese forces from various sects that support the resistance and anti-normalization, make the possibility of complying with US-Israeli wishes unlikely… even if there were increasing attempts to escalate the Lebanese economic and living crises.
As for the option of a (US-supported) Israeli war on Lebanon to subdue it, and taking the resistance weapons or Hizbullah out of the political equation, it is unlikely, especially in the current conditions or in the near future, where Israeli decision makers do not seem serious about it, too. For its price is very high, the chances of reaching its objectives are slim, and the chances of suffering significant Israeli military and economic losses are high, because the resistance can target Israeli communities and vital areas all over Israel.
That’s why the US may prefer to continue with political and economic pressures on Lebanon to gain as much as possible, without entering into a war, causing Lebanese government collapse, or entering a phase of chaos. Such a case would negatively reflect on Israel, where borders may go out of control and resistance operations escalate…
Second: Dismantling the issue of Palestinian refugees, by expanding and facilitating the immigration of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon, granting Lebanese citizenship to about a hundred thousand Palestinians, dismantling the Palestinian refugee camps and imposing state control on them, and disarming Palestinian forces and factions.
Perhaps the results of the post enumeration survey showing the number of Palestinian Refugee in Lebanon is 174 thousand, while the number of The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) registered refugees is more than 550 thousand, indicate that most of them have either temporarily or permanently left Lebanon, even if their names are still in the refugee registries. At the same time, it gives the impression that the practical solution to end the refugee question has become easier, even if the actual number of refugees in Lebanon exceeds the survey by few tens of thousands.
Perhaps facilitating naturalization may one of the quiet exits to the “resettlement” process, such as naturalizing those married to Lebanese women and their children, the rest of Palestinian Christians, or capitalists… and others.
The US-attempts to cancel UNRWA and drain its financial resources have caused great pressure on both Palestinians and the Lebanese government, consequently, there must be Lebanese-Palestinian coordination to face it.
Furthermore, pushing Lebanese authorities to disarm the refugee camps, without prior consent of Palestinian community and political forces, and without sufficient security guarantees for the Palestinians, may lead to armed clashes and devastating results for both Lebanese and Palestinian parties.
Some forces, under pressure and various temptations, may find in naturalization an exit out of their own crises and the political and economic crises of Lebanon, opining that the assumed number of those to be naturalized can be “accepted” and absorbed by the Lebanese society. However, such a proposal is still unlikely, and will be faced by a broad rejection of all or most of the Lebanese forces of various sects. It is also completely rejected by the Palestinians, as long as it could mean in any manner the waiver of their right of return to their homes and villages in Palestine, from which they were expelled. This means, as long as the Lebanese and Palestinian parties refuse resettlement, practically there is no way to implement it.
The “deal of the century” is not a fate, and can be thwarted as was done to dozens of peace settlement projects over the past 70 years, as long as the Palestinian people remain adhering to their rights. The chances of implementing “the deal” by the Palestinians is remote, because there is a Palestinian consensus on rejecting it. Also, Arab-wise, it won’t be easy to implement it, since there are still Arab parties that reject solving the refugees’ issue on their own expense, such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There are a number of pro-US Arab countries that are hesitant to adopt the deal, may be because they see no real chance for its success, and their peoples reject it, and because the “deal” is well below the official Arab accepted minimum.
The US enforces its views and uses its enormous international influence to render them facts on the ground. However, the insistence of Palestinians on their rights, supported by the Arabs and Muslims, remains the cornerstone that delegitimizes any condesecnding US-Israeli-Western attitude.
Perhaps it’s time for various Lebanese forces, which are the wide majority and which reject the deal and resettlement, to form a unified “impregnable wall” along with the Palestinian forces and factions againt the US and its allies. Furthermore, there is a great need for media, educational and political programs to spread awareness among the Lebanese about the dangers of the deal, so that none would fall for the US temptations or threats.
Finally, the best way to face the “deal” and avoid any problems that may be prompted by attempts to apply it, is by speeding up the process of granting the Palestinians in Lebanon their economic, social and humanitarian civil rights, and providing a good environment for a decent life. This matter is not longer difficult, due to the fact that Lebanese parties has acknowledged most of these rights—if not all—when they ratified a document issued by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, in January 2017, which has generally found reasonable solutions to regulate the Palestinian presence in Lebanon.
This article was originally published in Arabic on TRT Arabic “trt.net.tr/arabic” on 26/6/2019.