A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For February 13-14/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 120th Day

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محتجون لبنانيون خلال مسيرة انطلقت أمس من أمام مدخل وزارة الداخلية في الصنائع باتجاه مصرف لبنان والبرلمان رفضا لحكومة حسان دياب تحت عنوان 'لا ثقة' (المركزية)

A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For 13-14/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 120th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
February 14/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 13-14/20
Lebanon PM pledges not to run in next election/The National/February 13/2020
President chairs financial, economic meeting at Baabda Palace
Lebanon’s President: Anyone who Stole from Treasury Will be Taken to Court
Aoun chairs Cabinet session at Baabda palace
Aoun Urges Ministers to Devise Emergency Plan, PM Asks Them Not to Run in Elections
Baabda Meeting Convenes over Financial, Economic Crisis
Lebanon debt plan may need 70% haircut, 50% currency drop, Capital Economics estimates
Diab Says Hariri’s Murder was ‘Major Crime against Lebanon’s Future’
Diab on 15th commemoration of martyrdom of PM Hariri: His assassination is a major crime against the future of Lebanon
Diab, ALI delegation tackle industrial situation
Berri, Saadeh, Hmayed waive their rights against those who assaulted MPs prior to confidence session
Central Bank Cuts Rates to Ease Lebanon’s Crisis
Report: Aoun, FPM ‘Not Invited’ to Hariri’s Commemoration Ceremony
Report: Hariri Seeks New ‘Agreements’
IMF Says New Lebanon Government Requested Advice
Protesters Rally in Solidarity with Journalist Zbeeb after Assault
Rafik Hariri’s Commemoration Highlights Fall of Settlement with Aoun
Lebanon’s Diab Left Alone in Defending his Government
Wazni from Baabda: Circular will be issued shortly on banks’ dealings with depositors
Activists stage sit in outside Interior Ministry in solidarity with Zbeeb
Hariri receives Mundis
Young men gather outside Karami’s residence in Tripoli
Falha on World Radio Day: Ministry of Information is a platform for everyone
Five detainees released in Sidon
Lebanon struggles to honour Rafik Hariri’s legacy/The National/February 13/2020
Analysis/Israeli-Arab Nonaggression Pact? Don’t Celebrate Yet/Zvi Bar’el/Haaretz/February 13/2020
The Deal of the Century and the fate of the Palestinians/Manal Makkieh/Annahar/February 13/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 13-14/2020
Lebanon PM pledges not to run in next election
The National/February 13/2020
Hassan Diab and his entire Cabinet will also not support any future candidates
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday pledged not to run in the future parliamentary elections or support any candidates.
Deputy Prime Minister Zeina Akar and the other 18 members of Cabinet also signed up to Mr Diab’s pledge not to run in the next election. The current administration is a departure in Lebanon where the bulk of ministers are usually also MPs.  In recent years, discussions have been raised about having a government not also elected to parliament as it prevents one body overseeing the work of the other. However, many senior figures – including former prime minister and Future Movement head Saad Hariri or former foreign minister and Free Patriotic Movement head Gibran Bassil – served multiple times in both chambers. No elections are scheduled until 2022 although some have suggested that a vote should be held early given mass anger on the streets since October. Mr Diab stated his Cabinet’s plan to abstain from standing on January 21. “There are no MPs [in the government], and no candidates for the next parliamentary elections,” he said. His would be “a government of specialists that will only be held accountable to the language of science, reason and expertise and the interest of the nation,” he added. Months of anti-government protests have rocked Lebanon, with demonstrators calling for a change in political leadership.The Lebanese parliament passed a vote of confidence in the cabinet this week, with just 84 of the chamber’s 128 MPs attending the parliamentary session as protesters raged and blocked roads outside. Sixty-three MPs voted in favour of the new government with one abstention and 20 against. Mr Diab, a former professor at the American University of Beirut, presented his choices for the new government in late January. The prime minister was selected after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned at the end of October, two weeks after the nationwide protests erupted. The letter on Thursday came as Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun asked ministers to start working on the 2021 state budget, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said after the new cabinet’s first meeting at Baabda Palace. The heavily indebted state is facing a financial crisis and must quickly decide whether to repay maturing foreign currency debt on schedule, including a $1.2 billion Eurobond due on March 9. Ahead of the Cabinet session, Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said that there were several options open to the government over the repayment. “We will continue discussions in order to make the right decision,” Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said.Imad Salamey, a political analyst in Lebanon, said the situation was unprecedented. “This is unprecedented since the 2005 government headed by Mikati,” he said. “The 2005 Mikati government was established as an interm government with the sole purpose of preparing for elections. “This government is attempting to gain the confidence of the public by presenting itself as having no political ambitions other than confronting current crisis. “The 2005 government organised elections within three months after its formations, there are three more years of elections ahead of the current government. “So it is presenting itself as sustainable and non partisan while it represents only Hezbollah and allies.”

President chairs financial, economic meeting at Baabda Palace
NNA/February 13/2020
President Michel Aoun chaired a financial and economic meeting, at 10:30am in the Presidential Palace, in the presence of the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense, Zeina Akar Adra, Minister of Finance, Ghazi Wazni, Economy and trade Minister, Raoul Nehme, Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, Head of the Association of Banks, Salim Sfeir, and General Director of the Lebanese Presidency, Dr. Antoine Choucair.
The meeting was devoted to discuss the entitlement of the “Eurobond”, the Lebanese financial and economic conditions, and the necessary measures to confront the financial crisis and reassure depositors of their cash in banks. A meeting between President Aoun, Speaker Berri, and PM Diab preceded the economic meeting, during which the general conditions and current developments in the country were discussed.
Minister of Finance Statement:
“The meeting was very important, and the topics which we tackled are those discussed on the local scene, and can be summarized by two issues: The “Eurobond”, and the Capital Control. The discussion about these two issues was concentrated.
Regarding the Eurobond merit, there are several options which have been proposed, each one has been studied in depth, whether in terms of payment or not, and each expressed his opinion frankly. It was agreed to continue the research in the coming stage to take appropriate decisions, since this issue is very important to the country, depositors, and banks, as well as for the economic sector, and our foreign relations.
As for the Capital Control issue, there is no longer possibility for banks to deal with depositors illegally, and unclearly, in which the customer is ultimately the weak point. From here, an understanding was reached that a clear circular would be issued in the next two days. The Cabinet agreed to put an end to discretion in dealing between banks and customers, in a way which provides protection to customers firstly, whether they are borrowers or depositors, in the banking sector”.
French Delegation:
President Aoun received a French delegation including, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Defense and Army Committee, Senator Joel Guerriau, Mrs. Christine Gerio, Senator Guillaime le Duc, media attaché to Senator Gerio, Mr. Elie Abi Saad, and his Personal Representative in La Francophonie Organization, Mr. Jarjoura Hardan.
The French delegation expressed support for the President’s efforts in getting Lebanon out of the current crisis, and also affirmed readiness to provide all possible assistance to overcome the current difficult stage.-Presidency Press Office

Lebanon’s President: Anyone who Stole from Treasury Will be Taken to Court
Beirut/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 13 February, 2020
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has warned that “anyone who plunders the treasury” will be taken to trial, saying Lebanon entered a “new stage” after the government gained parliament’s vote of confidence. Aoun spoke on Wednesday during his meeting at Baabda Palace with a delegation of honorary consuls in Lebanon led by Joseph Habis, the dean of the consular corps in the country, who is also honorary consul general of Singapore. Commenting on the need to crack down on corruption, Aoun said: “Anyone who plunders the treasury will be taken to trial in accordance with the laws, and under a court specializing in financial crimes involving public money.” He reiterated that Lebanon’s financial and economic crises “require measures that will be relatively painful for the Lebanese.”But Aoun stressed that “a new stage has begun after the government gained confidence.”Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet won on Tuesday votes from the majority of parliament members present in the 128-member legislature. At the end of the day, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said 63 legislators voted in favor, 20 did not give a vote of confidence and one abstained.

 

Aoun chairs Cabinet session at Baabda palace
NNA/February 13/2020
The Cabinet held a meeting session, today at 12 noon in Baabda Palace, chaired by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, and attended by the Prime Minister and Ministers.
At the start of the session, His Excellency asked the Prime Minster for a minute of silence mourning the lives of Army and ISF martyrs, who fell in Bekaa and Ouzai. The martyrs of the Army are: Staff Sergeant, Ali Ismail, Sergeant Major, Ahmed Haidar Ahmad, and Soldier, Hassan Izz Al-Din. And from the Internal Security Forces: Major Jalal Sharif, and Deputy, Ziad Al-Attar.
Afterwards, His Excellency congratulated the Government on gaining confidence, pointing out that everyone is required to work at a fast pace in all exceptional economic, financial, monetary and banking conditions, which we live in, and start implementing the Policy Statement’s content regarding the preparation of the emergency plan, and plans for the first and second stage, as stated in the Policy Statement. The President then spoke about the financial meeting, which was held today before the session, indicating that he addressed the financial and economic crisis and current difficulties. During the meeting, the proposed solutions, which are to be approved later, were studied.
The President also asked the concerned Ministers to prepare a draft budget for 2021 in order to follow its path within the specified constitutional deadlines. Then the Prime Minister asked Ministers to sign a pledge not to run in Parliamentary elections (If held under the supervision of the current Government), in line with contents of the Policy Statement. All Ministers signed on this pledge. Minsters also signed as statement on movable and immovable funds, incomes, and loans of Ministers, and on all their interests and benefits (Direct or indirect), in any company or project of any kind disclosure of bank accounts in Lebanon and broad, as the Prime Minister requested
Afterwards, the Prime Minister asked Ministers to prepare a file which includes urgent and necessary project which are supposed to be presented during visits abroad (or with Arab visitors) when they visit Lebanon, as well as with donors, provided that these files are ready during the next week. Then the PM presented the most prominent aspects of the financial and economic meeting and the options available to deal with current economic and financial conditions. Provided that the assistance of experts from the International Monetary Fund, and International legal and economic experts, study these options so that the Cabinet is prepared to take the appropriate decisions.
Consequently, the Cabinet examined a number of issues raised by Ministers on economic, financial, and monetary conditions.
Finally, the Cabinet took a decision to strengthen capacities of the Health Ministry through measures taken to prevent the Corona disease, especially at land, air and sea entrances of the country.

Aoun Urges Ministers to Devise Emergency Plan, PM Asks Them Not to Run in Elections
Naharnet/February 13/2020
President Michel Aoun on Thursday called on ministers to “work in a rapid pace amid all the extraordinary economic, financial, monetary and banking circumstances that we are going through.”Speaking at the beginning of the first session of the new Cabinet, Aoun said the ministers should “begin implementing the content of the Policy Statement in terms of devising the emergency plan and the plans of the first and second phases, as mentioned in the Policy Statement.”The president also asked ministers to “start preparing the draft 2021 state budget so that it takes it course within the specified constitutional deadlines.” Prime Minister Hassan Diab for his part asked ministers to “prepare files listing the urgent and necessary projects that should be discussed during foreign trips or with Arab and foreign officials when they visit Lebanon, as well as with the donor parties,” telling them that the files should be ready by next week at the latest. He also asked them to “sign pledges not to run in parliamentary elections should the polls be held under the supervision of the current government, in line with the articles of the Policy Statement.”

Baabda Meeting Convenes over Financial, Economic Crisis
Naharnet/February 13/2020
In light of a crippling economic crisis and confusion whether Lebanon should pay or restructure its international dues, a “financial and economic” meeting convened at Baabda Presidential Palace to discuss the situation, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. Interlocutors did not make a decision on the payment of Eurobonds because “the issue needs to be studied thoroughly.” “Several options have been studied on the Eurobond topic and we will study it thoroughly to make appropriate decisions,” Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni told reporters in a statement after the meeting. Regarding illegitimate capital controls imposed by banks, Wazni said “banks can not keep dealing with depositors at their own discretion and the Cabinet will issue a circular in the next few days to protect depositors and the banking system as well.”The meeting, chaired by President Michel Aoun, was held in the presence of Defense Minister Zeina Akar, Wazni, Economy Minister Raoul Nehme, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, Head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon Salim Sfeir, and Presidency Director-General Antoine Choucair. Before the meeting began, Aoun, Berri and Diab held a tripartite meeting over the situation. Crisis-hit Lebanon is on the brink of defaulting on its sovereign debt, with a $1.2 billion Eurobond payment due next month. On Wednesday, the government asked the International Monetary Fund to provide technical expertise on the macroeconomic challenges facing the economy, according to IMF spokesman Gerry Rice. But Rica added that “any decisions on debt are the authorities’,” to be made in consultation with their own legal and financial advisors,” Rice said. Lebanon’s government has to decide whether it should restructure or pay its $2.5 billion Eurobonds, including a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing in March, $600 million maturing in April, and $700 million in June. Lebanon is passing through an unprecedented economic and financial crisis unprecedented since its 1975-90 civil war.

Lebanon debt plan may need 70% haircut, 50% currency drop, Capital Economics estimates
Reuters/February 13/2020
– Lebanon’s bond holders may have to write off 70% of their investments and the value of the country’s currency might be cut in half in an International Monetary Fund rescue, analysts at Capital Economics said on Thursday. Lebanon formally requested the IMF’s technical help on Wednesday as it tries to avoid a full-blown economic collapse. Whether that turns into a formal bailout remains to be seen, but analysts have started to evaluate possibilities. “Past experience suggests that this will involve haircuts (debt write-offs) of up to 70%,” Capital Economics’ Jason Tuvey wrote in a note. That would wipe out banks’ capital, and the cost of re-capitalising the banks would come to around 25% of Lebanon’s gross domestic product. IMF technical assistance could help limit the strains. A cut in government spending of 3% to 4% of GDP will also be needed to prevent the debt burden from growing. Austerity will focus on reining in public-sector wages and overhauling the state electricity company. As in Egypt in 2016, the IMF would be likely to insist that – as a pre-condition to a deal – authorities devalue the Lebanese pound, Tuvey said. Black-market exchange rates are now around 30% below the country’s official rate, but the IMF’s most recent review of Lebanon estimated the currency was over-valued by 50%. “We think the currency could fall by 50% against the dollar,” Tuvey said. “And in the meantime, the economy is likely to fall into an even deeper recession. Overall, we expect GDP to contract by 5% this year. Our forecast lies right at the bottom of the consensus range.” (Reporting by Larry King)

Diab Says Hariri’s Murder was ‘Major Crime against Lebanon’s Future
Naharnet/February 13/2020
Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday described the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri as a “crime against Lebanon’s future.”“The 15th anniversary of the martyrdom of ex-PM Rafik Hariri and his companions comes this year as Lebanon passes through a sensitive period and faces dangerous financial, economic and social challenges,” Diab said in a statement marking the occasion. “The martyr premier launched the reconstruction of Lebanon after the war and removed its scars and today we miss his strong presence at the Arab and international arenas as to rescuing Lebanon from the dire and accumulating financial crisis,” Diab added. “The assassination of the martyr premier represented an assassination of the dreams of the Lebanese and a major crime against the future of Lebanon, which the martyr premier wanted to be a beacon for the region and the world,” the premier went on to say. A massive suicide bomb tore through Hariri’s armored convoy on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005, killing him and 22 other people. The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon has tried four Hizbullah operatives in absentia over the crime and the verdicts are expected to be issued later this year. Hizbullah has denied involvement in the case, describing the tribunal as a U.S.-Israeli scheme and vowing that the accused will never be found.

Diab on 15th commemoration of martyrdom of PM Hariri: His assassination is a major crime against the future of Lebanon
NNA/February 13/2020
Marking the 15th commemoration of the martyrdom of late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and his comrades, Prime Minister Dr. Hassan issued the following statement: “this year’s commemoration comes at a time when Lebanon endures a sensitive stage and faces serious financial, economic, social and daily living challenges.””The late PM, who launched post-war reconstruction process and purged its effects, we lack today the strength of his presence on the Arab and international arena to save Lebanon from the simmering financial crisis,” statement said. “The assasinatin of the late PM was also an assasination of the dreams of the Lebanese and a major crime against the future of Lebanon, which the late PM hoped would be a lighthouse in the region and the world,” statement concluded.

Diab, ALI delegation tackle industrial situation
NNA/February 13/2020
Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab, met this evening at the Grand Serail with a delegation of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI), led by Dr. Fady Gemayel. Discussions dwelt in depth on the current industrial situation in the country and the sector’s challenges at this delicate stage.
Premier Diab stressed that industry and all other production sectors are of great necessity for the country, expressing trust that industrialist shall contribute significantly to Lebanon’s rescue workshop. Diab also saluted the resilience of the industrialists in these difficult circumstances; however, he hailed the Lebanese ability to confront difficulties.

Berri, Saadeh, Hmayed waive their rights against those who assaulted MPs prior to confidence session
NNA/February 13/2020
President Michel Aoun on Thu
The Security Forces arrested on Thursday the assailants that attacked MP Salim Saadeh and MP Ayoub Hmayed’s cars, as well as those of other MPs prior to the Parliament’s vote of confidence session on Tuesday.
After being informed about the arrests, the House Speaker, as well as MPs Saadeh and Hmayed, requested of the competent security and judicial apparatuses to waive their rights in this case.

Central Bank Cuts Rates to Ease Lebanon’s Crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 13/2020
Lebanon’s central bank Thursday told commercial banks to lower interest rates on dollar and Lebanese pound deposits in the latest attempt to ease the country’s worst financial crisis in decades. The central bank imposed a temporary interest cap of 4 percent on dollar deposits and 7.5 percent on Lebanese pound deposits, according to a circular seen by AFP. It was the second time in two months that the central bank has taken such a measure. Earlier in December, it capped interest rates on dollar and local currency deposits at 5 and 8.5 percent respectively. The latest reduction comes weeks after Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni called for slashed rates to “spur economic activity and to ease pressure on public finances.” A banking source close to the matter said the latest central bank measure was part “of a more comprehensive economic rescue plan.”The source asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the issue. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said his cabinet would draw up an emergency rescue plan for the country by the end of the month. The crisis-hit country has debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent, one of the highest in the world. It is currently in the throes of a severe economic meltdown and a biting liquidity crunch that has seen banks impose stringent controls on withdrawals and transfers abroad. Credit rating agencies and economists have warned of dwindling foreign currency reserves that have plummeted in recent months, threatening import payments and a devaluation of the Lebanese pound. The local currency has lost a third of its value on the black market.

Report: Aoun, FPM ‘Not Invited’ to Hariri’s Commemoration Ceremony
Naharnet/February 13/2020
Al-Mustaqbal Movement of will not invite President Michel Aoun or any figures of the Free Patriotic Movement to the commemoration ceremony of late PM Rafik Hariri, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat reported on Thursday. Al-Mustaqbal sources told the daily that the Movement decided not to invite President Michel Aoun and to exclude the Free Patriotic Movement’s leader (MP Jebran Bassil) and its entire officials to the 15th commemoration of ex-PM Rafik Hariri at the center house. They said the FPM was added to the list of parties “not welcome on this occasion, similar to (Hizbullah) party, after the (presidential) term turned against the political settlement,” between al-Mustaqbal chief ex-PM Saad Hariri and Aoun that led to Aoun’s election. Hariri was assassinated in a massive car explosion in Beirut in 2005.

Report: Hariri Seeks New ‘Agreements’
Naharnet/February 13/2020
Al-Mustaqbal Movement of ex-PM Saad Hariri that moved to the opposition after the resignation of its chief, seeks to bring the opposition parties and figures of the popular movement in a “united front,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Mustaqbal sources told the daily that in order for the opposition to be “effective and productive,” it must be “united at the level of parliamentary blocs, political parties and figures from the Movement.”They said an “understanding could be reached with Movement figures to have them represented in the Parliament.”After the commemoration ceremony of his father on February 14, Hariri is expected to promote this opposition “with new understandings,” after his earlier agreement failed with founder of the Free Patriotic Movement President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Jebran Bassil. “A constructive opposition can not succeed without strengthening itself and reinstating clear political bases with the opposition blocs, mainly with the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb party, Progressive Socialist party, independent MPs, independent figures of the March 14 camp, and figures from the Movement,” said the sources. “Conducting dialogues and understandings with political figures and leaders involved in the Movement that has existed since October 17, would give real significance for building effective opposition,” they added.

IMF Says New Lebanon Government Requested Advice
Naharnet/February 13/2020
A day after receiving a vote of confidence from parliament, the government on Wednesday afternoon asked the International Monetary Fund to provide advice on its economic plan, a fund spokesman said. However, the IMF statement made no mention of financial assistance for crisis-battered Lebanon. The authorities asked for “advice and technical expertise on the macroeconomic challenges facing the economy,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement.
Part of the mission of the Washington-based crisis lender is to offer “advice to its member countries on policies and reforms to restore macro-stability and promote growth.” However, “any decisions on debt are the authorities’, to be made in consultation with their own legal and financial advisors,” Rice said. The country is on the brink of defaulting on its sovereign debt, with a $1.2 billion Eurobond payment due next month. Lebanon’s parliament on Tuesday backed the cabinet and program of incoming Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a confidence vote amid widespread and at times violent protests. New premier Diab, a little-known academic and former education minister, was tasked with forming a government in December after mass rallies against official corruption and economic woes forced premier Saad Hariri to resign. Diab has warned that the economy could collapse without an emergency plan to restore order. The international community has pledged more than $11 billion in desperately needed financial aid but made it conditional on the speedy implementation of economic reforms. Rice in late January said the IMF already was providing technical assistance to Beirut but denied there had been any request for a loan.

Protesters Rally in Solidarity with Journalist Zbeeb after Assault
Naharnet/February 13/2020
Anti-government protesters and a grouping of journalists rallied Thursday outside the central bank in Hamra in solidarity with prominent economic journalist Mohammed Zbeeb, who was beaten up overnight at the hands of three unknown attackers. “Officials today are preoccupying people with lies and myths about the issue of paying Lebanon’s due debt,” a defiant Zbeeb said at the rally, noting that “every dollar paid as debt service or to pay the Eurobonds will come at the expense of our children’s milk.”“When this uprising erupted, it specified its objectives and it will not calm down until it achieves all its demands and it shall emerge victorious,” he added. “Those in power will be defeated,” Zbeeb stressed.Zbeeb, a vocal critic of banks and the state’s financial policies, was assaulted at a parking in the Hamra area as he was heading to his car after taking part in an economic seminar.

Rafik Hariri’s Commemoration Highlights Fall of Settlement with Aoun
Beirut – Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 13 February, 2020
Lebanon’s politicians are awaiting Friday’s speech of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri, as al-Mustaqbal Movement snubbed President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, sources said that the FPM, which has been founded by Aoun, “was added to the list of undesirable parties in this event, alike [Hezbollah], after the [presidency] turned against the political settlement.”The settlement had led to Aoun’s election as president in 2016 and Saad Hariri’s appointment as premier. Friday’s event is expected to mark a reunion for the parties that once formed the March 14 coalition, especially after the eruption of the uprising on Oct. 17 and the subsequent developments, including Hariri’s resignation. While the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) have not disclosed the level of their participation in this year’s ceremony, they have both confirmed they would attend the event at the Center House in Beirut. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, LF media and communication official Charles Jabbour said: “For security reasons, we cannot confirm whether (Samir) Geagea, the party’s leader, will be present or not. But certainly we will participate through a high-ranking delegation of deputies and ministers.”The PSP, for its part, is yet to decide on the delegation’s size and level. Jabbour noted that the occasion should be an opportunity to restore the relationship between the LF and Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement. Al-Mustaqbal MP Mustafa Alloush said Hariri’s speech could pave the way for breaking the ice among several parties that were members of the March 14 alliance. Any step in this direction should be based on solid and common grounds, according to Alloush. Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a massive car bomb explosion in Beirut in 2005.

Lebanon’s Diab Left Alone in Defending his Government
Beirut – Mohamed Choucair/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 13 February, 2020
The new government has passed its first test, after 63 out of 84 MPs present in parliament gave it their vote of confidence, despite Prime Minister Hassan Diab being named by 69 parliamentarians for the premiership. Only a few deputies publicly defended the cabinet during Tuesday’s vote of confidence session. But the position of Hezbollah was remarkable.“This government does not resemble us; we accepted it to facilitate its formation,” MP Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, announced. Raad’s position raised more question marks about the underlying reasons behind such as statement. Some observers said that he wanted to send a message to local and foreign parties that the government was not that of Hezbollah. Parliamentary sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the deputy was in fact responding to criticism that the new government was picked by Hezbollah. They added that Diab rushed to confirm Raad’s statements, by emphasizing that the cabinet ministers were independent. The premier’s insistence on the independence of the government, according to the sources, was a message to the Arab world and the international community that accusations on the formation of a one-sided cabinet were baseless. However, Diab received solely the votes of lawmakers from Hezbollah’s bloc or its allies, mainly the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The prime minister – as parliamentary sources said – will seek to present to most Arab countries and the international community a better image of his new government, after relations with some of them had turned sour under former Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. But the sources added that it would be difficult for Diab to gain the international community’s trust.

Wazni from Baabda: Circular will be issued shortly on banks’ dealings with depositors
NNA/February 13/2020
Minister of Finance, Ghazi Wazni, said at the cabinet session at Baabda Palace: “Several options were studied on the topic of Eurobond, and we will continue to deliberate in order to take the appropriate decision.”
“There is no possibility for banks to continue dealing with depositors with discretion, and an explicit circular will be issued in the coming days,” he affirmed.

Activists stage sit in outside Interior Ministry in solidarity with Zbeeb
NNA/February 13/2020
A number of activists staged a sit in outside the Interior Ministry in Sanayeh, in solidarity with the Journalist Mohammed Zbeeb who was assaulted overnight, NNA field reporter said on Thursday. Activists have gathered outside Lebanon’s Central Bank and marched towards Hamra Street.

Hariri receives Mundis
NNA/February 13/2020
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri received this afternoon at the Center House the Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daryl Mundis, and discussed with him the work of the STL.

Young men gather outside Karami’s residence in Tripoli
NNA/February 13/2020
Several young men and women have gathered outside the residence of MP Faisal Karami in the city of Tripoli, deploring the current simmering economic situation and chanting anti-government slogans. Protesters branded the Cabinet as the “government of one color.”Protesters then moved to Lebanon’s Central Bank in Tripoli, deploring the monetary policy and dollar and food price hikes.

Falha on World Radio Day: Ministry of Information is a platform for everyone
NNA/February 13/2020
Ministry of Information General Director, Dr. Hassan Falha, on Thursday said in an interview with Radio Lebanon marking “World Radio Day” that the Ministry of Information represented a platform for everyone.
“‘World Radio Day’ was launched by the United Nations back in 1946, 8 years after the establishment of Radio Lebanon in 1938; it is a state-run radio station for all the Lebanese and all the listeners beyond the Lebanese borders,” Falha said, stressing the important role of radio stations in strengthening the role of every human being in this world.
“A radio station neither dies nor ends for as long as there are people listening to the radio. However, there is a peak time in all fields, as well as in the media; when a person is in his car, it is the peak time of radio stations,” Falha explained.
“One culture does not solely provide continuity and productivity but rather needs to interact with other cultures and civilizations for this purpose. Lebanon embodies the beautiful image of this diversity with its multiple denominations and the ideas of its people,” he added, stressing that Radio Lebanon is the voice of every human being, as it allows everyone to express his/her opinion.
Dr. Falha went on to explain that the media was no longer confined within geographical boundaries thanks to the internet which has given every person in this world access to media. “There are global standards that must be adopted and national standards that must be adhered to, and most importantly, there should be responsibility to avoid chaos,” he affirmed.
“We have a wide space of freedom in Lebanon; sometimes it exceeds its limits and it becomes chaos, but freedom of expression exists,” he added.
Moreover, Falha noted that today’s media has changed its role and function. “We must produce a conscious culture that enjoys the basic elements that humanity and culture can adhere to at the national level.”
Falha couldn’t help but regret the fact that the things that were taboo in the past have become acceptable and almost permissible due to the development that has changed the ethics compass of people.
“On the national level, and on World Radio Day, we consider the Ministry of Information a platform for everyone, and we will strive to provide an opportunity to everyone with energy to give. I believe that with the new growing generations, there is no fear for the future,” Falha maintained.
On the other hand, Falha seized the opportunity to thank the Beirut Arab University, “which was founded for the poor and set out generations with a respectable level amongst Lebanese and Arab universities.” He recalled its founder, Jamal Abdel Nasser, “a legacy and a heritage for future for generations.”
He also paid tribute to the Lebanese University from which he graduated. “It is the University of the homeland and it is for all the Lebanese and Arab colleagues who studied there.”
Falha did not fail to shed light on the many crises being witnessed in the world of media. “The media has changed as the advertising markets have increased. The means by which people acquire cultural standards have also changed thanks to the smartphones, which are available to everyone.”
On the other hand, he said that the social media has allowed people to freely express their opinion. “Personally, I write literally pieces and discuss strategy, not politics via my social media accounts,” he explained.
Dr. Falha concluded by saying: “We celebrate this year under the title ‘Radio and Diversity’. We are part of UNESCO, and we adhere to its programs just the way it should adhere to ours.”

Five detainees released in Sidon
NNA/February 13/2020
Five detainees who were arrested on Wednesday in Sidon over riot acts in Central Beirut have been released.

Lebanon struggles to honour Rafik Hariri’s legacy
The National/February 13/2020
Fifteen years after the former prime minister was killed, his work is being undone
Living in a new era of relative calm was only just becoming normal for the people of Beirut. By February 14, 2005, Lebanon had experienced nearly 15 years without open conflict.
Political instability and occupation by Syrian soldiers plagued daily life, but the extreme violence of the country’s sectarian civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, finally looked as though it might fade into memory. That day in February, however, Lebanon’s new normal was dealt a deathblow.
Using a van packed with one tonne of TNT, assassins controlled by Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah targeted the motorcade of Rafik Hariri – Lebanese prime minister during two period in the 1990s and early 2000s – as it rolled along Beirut’s Corniche, a seaside promenade that Hariri himself helped regenerate. The colourful high-rises lining the Corniche are a symbol of the economic boom Lebanon experienced under the prime minister’s stewardship. They soar over the coastline, built upon waves of investment he attracted throughout the post-war period. Moreover, they are symbols of the towering figure that was Rafik Hariri.
Hariri was the young son of a farmer when he left Lebanon, and spent nearly two decades in Saudi Arabia moulding himself into one of the wealthiest construction magnates in the Middle East. By the mid-1980s, he was back in his homeland, using his resources and influence to help pull it out of its brutal civil war. In 1989, in a deal drawn up by Hariri and struck in the Saudi city of Taif, Lebanon’s factions agreed to peace in the form of a new constitution mandating power-sharing between competing religious groups.
The constitution was far from a perfect solution, but back then it was the only solution. And Hariri’s combination of charisma, pragmatism and alliances with western and Gulf allies proved crucial in making it all work in the service of the Lebanese. He worked to maintain the volatile Lebanese pound’s peg to the US dollar. He also played a careful balancing act, dividing contracts to reconstruct destroyed infrastructure between sectarian elites, but did so comfortably in the knowledge that it would get the job of rebuilding Lebanon done. Hariri-led administrations had much else to contend with: healing the civil war’s wounds, looking after Palestinian refugees and re-establishing Lebanon’s sovereignty. Syria – Lebanon’s neighbour and a belligerent in the civil war – refused to leave Lebanese territory even after the Taif agreement was signed. Hariri was also the calm, confident face that post-war Lebanon needed. When facing the West, his economic liberalism and business-mindedness reassured European and American investors that the new Lebanese economy was a worthy investment. When facing his own people, his can-do attitude taught an entire generation that there is more to aspire to than blind sectarianism. And when facing Damascus, he helped cultivate a grass-roots movement among the Lebanese to present a united front against Syrian occupation.
The last of these was what brought about Hariri’s demise. Convulsing with grief in the wake of his death, the anti-occupation movement swelled. By April 30, 2005, Syria announced a full withdrawal. Lebanon was free, but shaken.
Fifteen years later, the country’s footing is no more stable. The imperfections of the power-sharing system have been magnified and wielded by Hezbollah – which lacks majority support, but controls parliament – against the people, who have taken to the streets once more. The pound remains pegged to the dollar officially, but its black-market value is plummeting. The future of the wider economy, on the other hand, is pegged to Iranian interests – leaving it vulnerable to American sanctions. Buffeted by its leaders’ ineptitude and malevolence, Lebanon is now a pale shadow of the land Rafik Hariri helped to revive.
But Hariri’s life ought to continue to inspire. If there is one lesson to be learnt from his leadership, it is that anything in Lebanon that starts to crumble can one day be rebuilt, stronger and more beautiful than ever.

Analysis/Israeli-Arab Nonaggression Pact? Don’t Celebrate Yet
Zvi Bar’el/Haaretz/February 13/2020
زيفي برئيل/الهآرتس: متى الأحتفال بتوقيع معاهدة عدم اعتداء بين العرب وإسرائيل
التحليل الذي نشرته صحيفة الهآرتس بقلم زيفي برئيل أمس هو تعليقاً على تغريدة رئيس وزراء قطر السابق الشيخ حمد بن جاسم الذي توقع الوصول إلى اتفاقية عدم اعتداء بين إسرائيل ودول الخليج العربي ومعهم مصر والأردن وربما المغرب
Ex-Qatari PM’s tweet reflects a growing discourse on such a move. But the real implications would be anything but military.
“On December 14, I tweeted about the ‘deal of the century.’ I said it would be released at the beginning of the year,” the former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani noted in a tweet this week. “Now it will be followed by a nonaggression pact between Israel and the Gulf states, in addition to Egypt and Jordan, possibly also Morocco.”
Sheikh Hamad wrote that he is not opposed to a just peace. “And therefore I am not against signing a nonaggression agreement with Israel after we achieve clear results from the peace process.” In his opinion, however, any Arab countries supporting the “deal of the century” are adopting a short-sighted policy designed to help U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win votes in the upcoming elections that they face. Such Arab countries, he said, lack a long-term strategy.
“I wonder if there are any Arab states that can exploit the Israeli and American need to satisfy their interests from the ‘deal of the century,’ instead of being tools used by others for their own needs,” the sheikh wrote.
Pre-election diplomatic coup
One wonders if Sheikh Hamad, who managed Qatar’s foreign relations until 2013 and has met with many senior Israelis, is basing his tweets on a simple personal assessment or on actual information. But talk about a nonaggression pact has been making the rounds in recent weeks, as part of efforts by Trump and Netanyahu to lay claim to a major political coup before Israel’s March 2 election – including hopes for a meeting between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On December 19, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed, shared an article on his twitter feed from Britain’s The Spectator about the new alliance taking share between Israel and the Gulf states.
Netanyahu hastened to applaud and share the tweet. And Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz was even more specific, tweeting: “Thank you @ABZayed! Now is a good time to advance the historic non-belligerency and economic cooperation agreements between Israel and the Arab Gulf countries.”
Later Katz told Army Radio that Israel and the United States are working toward an agreement. He talked about the main points of the initiative that he presented, via the Americans, to top people in the Gulf. It would include a commitment not to enter into an alliance with a third country that would intend harm to any of the signatories to the pact.
The comments came shortly after an Israeli delegation went to Dubai to examine the arrangements for Israel in Dubai at the Expo 2020 world’s fair scheduled for October. In August 2019, Katz reported on a visit that he made to the UAE as part of an effort to advance a public process of normalization with the Gulf states. That visit took place against the backdrop of an American effort to create an Arab military coalition to protect shipping in the Gulf from Iran. It also followed meeting of the Warsaw Convention a year ago attended by 60 countries – including the Gulf states and Israel.
Such displays of normalization are in addition to Netanyahu’s visit to Oman and his recent meeting with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council in Uganda where the two discussed the possibility of normalization between the two countries, including civilian aircraft flying to and from Israel over Sudan.
Last week the Israel Defense website published a report about Saudi Arabia’s intention to buy Israeli-made Spike missiles to replace American Tau missiles. Saudi Arabia has not denied the report so far.
A nonbelligerence agreement, if signed, would formalize the political and military reality that exists between Israel and the Gulf states in any event. Its political implications are far more important than its military implications – since none of the Gulf states are in a state of war – either declared or in practice – with Israel.
Gulf Cooperation Council
But such agreement wouldn’t be devoid of limitations and obstacles. Three of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE – share a strategic interest with Israel to constrain Iran’s presence and influence in the Arab Middle East. They need Israel not as a military force but for its influence on President Trump’s policy towards Iran. But the other three council members, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, have their own independent policies towards Iran.
Qatar has an official economic partnership with Iran that relies on shared ownership and management of the largest gas field in the Gulf, which is adjacent to both countries. Qatar is also Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival and an ally of Turkey, which maintains a major military base in the country. Turkey and Qatar both support the internationally recognized Libyan government against the regime of rebel general Khalifa Hifter, who is supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
If Qatar decides to enter into such a nonaggression pact with Israel, it might encounter pressure from Turkey, or at least find itself in a strategic dilemma regarding the other Gulf nations that sign onto the agreement with Israel. Despite the close relations between Israel and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the Emiratis and Saudis have shared interests, but they also have separate interests – in other areas of the Middle East such as Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
For example, the UAE signed a number of agreements last year providing for economic and security collaboration with Iran, bucking the Saudi and American position. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also at odds over how the war in Yemen is being pursued, after the UAE decided to withdraw its forces from Yemen and break up its military coalition with Saudi Arabia.
This week the UAE held a lavish ceremony marking the return of its soldiers from Yemen, where it had 30,000 fighters. If the UAE wants closer ties with Iran, the nonaggression pact with Israel could face a complicated feasibility test over which ally the UAE would opt for.
For its part, Saudi Arabia has reluctantly given up influence in Lebanon following the resignation there of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his replacement by Hassan Diab, who is close to the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement.
The Lebanese arena
But the situation in Lebanon is fluid. The government has no public support and Saudi Arabia could yet return to the Lebanese arena. A nonaggression pact with Israel could distance it even further from Lebanon, which is in a state of war with Israel. Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia will have to decide which ties matter to it more – those with the Lebanese government, which includes representation from Hezbollah but would be economically dependent on Riyadh – or Israel.
A nonaggression pact is part of the promise included in the Arab peace initiative that came out of the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002. Its principal innovation was the undertaking by the Arab countries to provide Israel with a safety net in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
That condition laid the foundations for a future peace agreement with the Arab countries and created a linkage between Israeli-Palestinian peace and an end to the conflict with the Arab states. If a “private” nonaggression pact is signed between Israel and the Gulf states, it would void the Arab peace initiative and eliminate the only carrot the Arabs still have to advance the peace process.
Ostensibly, that carrot didn’t stand any chance of developing in any event, primarily because of Israel’s objections to a withdrawal from the territories and the diplomatic rupture between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. But given the shared Arab position reached at the recent League summit in Cairo, which opposes Trump’s “deal of the century,” it is difficult to foresee even a few of the Gulf states agreeing to sign a nonbelligerence pact with Israel prior to any breakthrough in the process with the Palestinians. Such a move would complete the “betrayal” of the Palestinians.
It appears that the Gulf states will wait, just as the people of Israel are, for the Israeli election before making any historic moves that could place Israel in an unprecedented strategic position in the Middle East.
*Picture Enclosed: Ex Amir Of Qater with Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani
صورة حمد بن جاسم مع أمير قطر السابق الشيخ حمد بن خليفة

The Deal of the Century and the fate of the Palestinians
Manal Makkieh/Annahar/February 13/2020
According to members of the Palestinian civil society, the Oslo agreement carries huge risks for refugees.
BEIRUT: President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu’s “Deal of the Century” restricted the Palestinians and once again, placed them in a state of oblivion.
Accordingly, the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut organized a panel discussion on February 12 to discuss the fate of Palestinian refugees in light of the current political reality.
“Intellectual resistance is one of the most important tactics,” mentioned Dr. Ziad El Sayegh, a previous Senior Advisory to the Ministry of State for Displaced Affairs and an Expert and Adviser on Public Policies and a researcher on the Pale. “Armed Jihad is not the only method anymore to attain freedom, yet it must be adopted alongside intellectual resistance to create a diplomatic track and prepare for a negotiating sphere.”
Leila Al Ali, a Palestinian Feminist, Political Activist, and Director of the Najdeh Association argued that the deal forces Arab countries to bear the responsibility of taking care of the displaced. Adding that people should accordingly fight for the right of return.
“If there is no authority or liberation organization, there is no state. We must not lose the fight for the right of return,” she said.
According to members of the Palestinian civil society, the Oslo agreement carries huge risks for refugees. These risks have encouraged members to form a body that aims to confront the agreement and defend the rights of refugees.
“A working group has been formed for the displaced Palestinians. It advocates for their rights and is currently working to integrate special curricula on the history of Palestine for the new generation to learn,” said Al Ali.
Saker Abu Fakher, Researcher and Editor at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, also argued that International law, the International Bill of Human Rights, and international institutions such as the United Nations “have failed in 72 years to bring justice to the Palestinian people, perhaps because international law comes from colonial laws.”
Accordingly, “the political opportunities for the Palestinians to achieve peace are not promising at the time, but their resilience strengthens them.”
According to the panelists, the deal does not give any hopes for peace but rather sabotages the Palestinian’s efforts to achieve freedom and independence. The deal charts the fate of the Palestinians in isolation from themselves. Therefore, without the Palestinian’s legal seal, it is impossible for any agreement, plan, vision, or understanding to take its path towards practical implementation.
Aside from the risk posed by the Deal of the Century, the panelists proposed some measurements to confront it. These measures include: establishing a Lebanese-Palestinian unity in which both nations can fight together, monitoring UNRWA’s work continuously in the region, resisting diplomatically and systematically, and reviving the Palestinian unity to end all divisions.