After Nasrallah's "had I known, I wouldn't have" comes March 14's "we told you so and we'll show you."
Hizbullah and March 14 are currently engaged in verbal warfare following a statement issued last Thursday by March 14 leaders calling on Hizbullah to disarm and "continue its integration into the Lebanese project" (read: join the Lebanese project).
The March 14 statement began with a condemnation of Israeli aggression and then went off on a tangent to argue that Lebanon is the antidote to Israel—a pathetic prerequisite to shake off accusations of treason leveled by Hizbullah, Assad, Aoun and others.
The war has proven that March 14's position regarding Israel was right. It (March 14) wasn't surprised by its aggression and atrocity. Israeli spitefulness towards Lebanon is permanent and continuous. It is spitefulness directed against a people known for its diversity, openness, dynamism-- which constitutes a civilizational challenge to the model represented by Israel… [Directed against] a [Lebanese] people that has proven its ability to anchor a democratic system not governed by religious racism or guarded by an intelligence apparatus… a people able to develop its country and contribute to the development of the Arab world… people who refuses Israeli spitefulness and insists on reclaiming its occupied lands in the Shebaa farms, Kfarshouba hills and its prisoners in Israel.
After all this alleged Lebanese greatness, you would think Lebanon is a modern country and March 14 is a visionary movement. In the next 4 paragraphs, each of which beginning with "the war has proven March 14 right", we learn that March 14 has always said "weapons not under Lebanese government authority" cannot deter Israeli aggression, and that the "balance of terror" theory has failed. All that and more "despite the heroism of the fighters." March 14 was also right about the "necessity" of respecting the blue line, international resolutions and deploying the army in the south.
"The war has proven March 14 right" when they "refused for the country to become a battle ground used by Iran to improve its negotiations conditions with the international community about its regional role and by the Syrian regime to exercise its hegemony over Lebanon."
"The war has proven that March 14 was right" when it sought to remove Emile Lahoud from power. "And then came the bishop's statements on the presidency to confirm that… March 14 was right."
They were right all along. Were they ever wrong about anything?
Our long march may have been marred by some mistakes and governed by some hesitation.
But that is a thing of the past, they assure us in the last paragraph. Armed with a new found confidence, the new March 14 will now work towards a strong and sovereign state with an exclusive mandate over national security, and with no tutelage or interference by outside forces. This is how March 14 thinks the country can begin a new phase:
- Support the Lebanese government and prime minister in their efforts to end the crisis. The government, we are told, played an "effective" role along with the parliament speaker in the "political resistance" to the Israeli aggression.
- Restore Lebanese confidence in their nation and confine reconstruction to state institutions.
- Fully implement the Taef agreement.
- Implement all international resolutions, especially resolution 1701 which settled the issue of Hizbullah's arms, and past resolutions concerning the assassinations and bombings that targeted the country over the past two years, and form the international tribunal.
- Disarm Hizbullah (or what means that) and the Palestinian militias.
- Monitor the border with Syria and delineate the border starting in Shebaa, to remove any pretexts that could be used to charge Lebanon the burden of regional conflicts.
- Endorse the speaker's call for a state of social and economic emergency especially in the areas affected by Israeli aggression.
- Return all displaced to their villages and settle the matter once and for all, including the displaced in the mountain (during the civil war).
- Disengage Lebanon from periphery politics (i.e. Arab Israeli struggle) and improve relations with those Arab countries that offered Lebanon political and economic support during difficult circumstances, and assist those countries in their efforts with the international community to find a just solution to the Palestinian cause.
- Demand that the Syrian regime recognize Lebanese independence and establish diplomatic relations with a country, as a prerequisite for normalizing relations between the two countries. Also call on the authorities to look into the regime's continuous interference in Lebanese affairs.
The statement said Nasrallah's "Had I known" speech constituted the beginning of what March 14 hopes would be a "continuation of Hizbullah's integration into the Lebanese project, which Shia leaders since 1977 played a major role in resuscitating by affirming the finality of the Lebanese entity. This call is echoed today by great political, religious leaders as well as intellectuals and journalists from the Shia community."
The statement also praised the Maronite Bishops' statement, issued the day before, which "drew lessons from the implications of one sect monopolizing decision making in the country."
Since the March 14 leaders got together in the Bristol Hotel to make this statement, I have been reading articles in their official press (al-Mustaqbal) linking the March 14 statement to the one made by the Maronite Bishops, suggesting a new national project can arise from the two. Many claimed the March 14 statement is as important as the one that declared the "independence uprising" more than a year and half ago. The March 14 leaders are apparently convinced they learned from their past "mistakes and hesitation" and will not resort to anymore compromises over Lebanese sovereignty. For that, their statement dared include their most public attack on Hizbullah's weapons yet, and supported an idealistic statement/attack by the Maronite church against the Shia community. Despite some sincere idealism expressed by the bishops, their statement remains a statement by a sectarian body with a biased reading of Lebanese history. I couldn't help but wonder how a supposedly national gathering like March 14 could use the words of bishops as a jumping board to a national project.
Samir Kassir, your "state of citizens" will have to wait.
March 14 is now heaping praise on Nabih Berri, the so called co-savior of Lebanon along with Fouad Siniora. The thinking goes that empowering Berri would lead to disempowering Hizbullah.
In any case, March 14 and the Lebanese government are flaunting new fangs, and seem determined to take on the Hizbullah challenge the way they know how (described above), and with a lot of help from UNIFIL.
Hizbullah isn't impressed.
In a short response on Saturday (they promised a longer, more revealing one at a later date), Hizbullah thanked "February 14" (as they call it) for its invitation to "continue" the integration into the Lebanese project and in turn called on "these forces to start joining the Lebanese project and quit relying on international forces and following foreign ambassadors." The statement said Hizbullah "understood the February 14 forces need to speak with confidence as a way to get out of a state of confusion and loss caused by … the resistance's historic victory."
Hizbullah called on "February 14" to stop being "tools" for "the American project which wants for Lebanon to become a passage to realize its objectives and policies that only see Israeli interests in the region". Hizbullah accused the United States of using the country as a battleground against the "Lebanese resistance" and against Syria, Iran and the Palestinian people.
Hizbullah charged that the February 14 forces cannot build a country when they cannot even honor their electoral commitments (made to Hizbullah during the elections), and when they turn against the ministerial statement at the first challenge and after the first Israeli aggression. For those of you who don't know, the ministerial statement, based on which this cabinet got the confidence of parliament, sanctioned the liberation of Shebaa and the right to resist occupation.
Hizbullah's statement saw the call to disarm Hizbullah as "denying the resistance its historic victory", and a proof that these (March 14/February14) forces are constantly trying to "submit their credentials to the American master."
Hizbullah MPs are now giving statements threatening to "reveal all the facts." One MP (Hajj Ali) claimed that if it weren't for Hizbullah calming its base, the situation would be "more difficult" in Lebanon. The Shia community is united around the resistance, he said, downplaying reports of dissent within the Shia community (source: Future TV). At least two Shia Muftis have spoken against Hizbullah since the war ended.
Finally, I should add that the March 14 meeting on Thursday was attended by two defectors from Aoun's camp, Roger Azam and Elias Zogby. One of them, Elias Zogby, told al-Mustaqbal that he did not wish to follow policies that lead to objectives other than what he worked 35 years to achieve. "The March 14 forces today constitute the spirit and meaning of the independence uprising," he said.