Lebanion’s Cabinet’s survival not threatened by incidents

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Lebanion’s Cabinet’s survival not threatened by incidents
Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star/Feb. 03, 2015

BEIRUT: The Cabinet’ survival will not be affected by recent security developments in the country, ministerial sources from various political factions said, as Prime Minister Tammam Salam prepares to celebrate his government’s first anniversary. The sources said that Salam, who will have cake with ministers later this week to mark the occasion, was able to contain the repercussions of Israel’s strike on the Hezbollah convoy in the Syrian town of Qunaitra on Jan. 18 and the party’s response in Lebanon’s occupied Shebaa Farms 10 days later.

The strike killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general. The sources said that Salam managed to protect the government from divisive reactions to Hezbollah’s military operation in the Shebaa Farms which killed two Israeli soldiers.

Two days after Hezbollah’s retaliation, the party’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said in a speech that the Qunaitra attack had shattered the rules of engagement with the Jewish state. This prompted a fierce reaction from March 14 officials, particularly former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who said that Nasrallah’s remarks were “unilateral and hasty and eliminated the will of the Lebanese people who are committed to [U.N] Resolution 1701,” which ended the summer 2006 war with Israel.

The sources said that these fierce reactions did not have a negative impact on Salam’s national unity Cabinet. Future Movement leader former premier Saad Hariri did not comment on Nasrallah’s latest address, as he has on previous speeches.

As for other divisive topics, such as the firing of Casino du Liban employees, the filling of the port Basin 4 or raising the retirement age of officers, Salam is confident that the government will come up with a solution for each issue despite the apparent difficulties.

The sources said that the sectarian dimension that underscores the disputes over Casino du Liban and the fourth basin did not signal the imminent formation of an alliance between rival Lebanese Christian groups. If this happened it could alter the Cabinet balance and even undermine the government. Rival Christian parties, including the Lebanese Forces and the Marada Movement, back truckers at the Port of Beirut who have launched an open-ended strike to protest the controversial filling of Basin 4.

Opposing Christian groups have also condemned the decision to lay off 191 employees at Casino du Liban who were said to be unproductive and causing the casino to lose revenue. The sources said that the stances of Christian political parties over these matters were driven by narrow interests. They added that the protests and the strikes by truckers and Casino du Liban employees could be easily addressed, particularly because agreement exists over the two issues. Rival Christian parties have not yet forged an alliance mirroring that which brought major Christian political parties together at the outset of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War.

The sources ruled out the possibility of such an alliance soon, saying that the outcome of dialogue between the Free Patriotic Movement and the LF did not indicate this would happen. The sources said that the LF and the FPM have so far agreed on topics which they cannot decide on alone, such as the need to draft an election law providing fair representation for Christians and to boost the powers of the president.

As for an agreement on the country’s new president, which Christian parties have a large say in, the sources said that the issue was left for the meeting between FPM leader Michel Aoun and head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea which is expected to happen on Mar Maroun Day, next Monday.