Voices from the Arab press: Partition Lebanon as a solution to Hezbollah

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 BEIRUT’S ACHRAFIEH Quarter, where Christians form the majority.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BEIRUT’S ACHRAFIEH Quarter, where Christians form the majority.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Partitioning Lebanon as a solution to the Hezbollah dilemma

An-Nahar, Lebanon, February 2

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Whoever believes that the partition proposed by some as a solution to the crisis in Lebanon is the product of a detailed and carefully crafted political vision is sorely mistaken. This conviction has gained traction among various popular groups, particularly the Christian community, not out of a desire to separate from the other Lebanese groups, but rather due to a feeling of helplessness in finding effective solutions to the country’s disasters. 

The division proposal is, in fact, motivated by a desire to distance themselves from the negative effects of Hezbollah’s influence. More and more groups in the Lebanese public are urging their political leaders to confront this challenge and push for the necessary modifications to the national stance on Hezbollah and the Iranian occupation of Lebanon. 

In interviews with groups from various Christian communities, the contrast between the unified discourse of “unionist” platforms and the divisive discourse of the public has become apparent. An important paradox must be noted: The vision of partition today differs from the vision that prevailed during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war

During the war, division was aimed at establishing a state for each sect. Now, however, there is a desire to create a separate state for Hezbollah, which would not be defined by sect, but by a “clean” environment free of the movement’s influence. Such a state would be legally protected, with legitimate military and security forces. Its strategic depth would be provided by countries historically friendly to Lebanon. 

Those who advocate for this solution draw on specific regions in Lebanon as an example. They cite Beirut’s Achrafieh Quarter and its immediate surrounding, where Christians are the majority. This region has worked hard to overcome the political collapse that began in 2019, with its streets being lit up and local security bolstered through coordination with legitimate security and military forces. In addition, public and individual freedoms have been protected in the area, resulting in exceptional growth compared to other Lebanese regions. 

 ACTIVISTS PROTEST against Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reforms outside his Modi’in home, Jan. 20. (credit: Jonathan Shaul/Flash90) ACTIVISTS PROTEST against Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reforms outside his Modi’in home, Jan. 20. (credit: Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

It is noteworthy that some politicians, who oppose all forms of separation or federalism in Lebanon, have begun to recognize the demands of the people. The repercussions of the economic collapse have varied greatly between regions, leading these politicians to worry that the evidence presented by this phenomenon could become a major factor in driving the country toward partition. Consequently, the Lebanese people have come to the realization that their nation needs to be reconstructed. 

It is essential that the upcoming presidential election results in the establishment of a governing body that is committed to implementing two key initiatives: the operational components of the Taif Agreement, which include expanded administrative decentralization; and balanced development that reflects the unique characteristics of each region in Lebanon. 

With such measures, the city of Tripoli, which has considerable potential, could be lifted out of the deep poverty that plagues a significant portion of its population. Leaders who oppose partition are not driven by ideology as much as they are by pragmatism. Partition may seem like an obvious solution, but the only alternative is war. Hezbollah must recognize that its approach in the country could backfire against it and tear apart Lebanon’s society. – Fares Khashan 

A decline in student achievements

Al-Jarida, Kuwait, February 1

The issue of leaked exams has been the final straw for the Kuwaiti education system. Going forward, it is essential that we build a competent and well-functioning education system that focuses on training our youth for a brighter future. There are still those who remain rooted in the past, advocating to maintain the same age-old curricula, as if it has no impact on our future generations. 

Our education system needs a comprehensive shake-up to discover the underlying causes of the decline in student achievement, and to reveal those responsible for any processes that may have contributed to the system’s collapse. To prevent similar tragedies and suffering from occurring again, it is essential that we identify and address the issues caused by those who claim to be “reformers,” but are, in fact, the root of all the system’s problems. 

The outdated curricula are a major factor in the decline of this system and must be urgently addressed. We must immediately revise the educational methods we use for teaching, while ensuring that those entrusted with teaching our students do so without bias or favoritism. To make tangible progress, an impartial committee should review academic curricula from first to 12th grade and identify any gaps that ought to be addressed. 

The Parliamentary Education Committee, which is foolishly preoccupied with the politics of assigning titles and ranks to its members, must also take this matter seriously. For example, we must recruit capable teachers, who are excited about the opportunity to contribute to the nation’s development processes. The coronavirus crisis forced many to transition to distance learning, yet this is no excuse for the deteriorating educational outcomes. 

We must keep pace with an ever-changing world and economy, staying away from reactionary mentalities, backwardness and extremist views that keep us stagnant. We must not be bystanders to the progress of the world around us. Most importantly, accountability must be assigned to all those implicated in the test-leaking and cheating scandal. This is an appropriate opportunity to thoroughly examine our education sector and ensure that it is not completely destroyed. – Mubarak Abd Al-Hadi

Israel’s political transformations

Al-Ittihad, United Arab Emirates, February 4

Israel is witnessing a new political reality, as demonstrations continue to take place across the country. Notable new segments of the Israeli public have joined the fray, such as workers from large companies and factories, some trade unions, and former military and political figures. All of these groups are protesting a draft government amendment to the judicial system, believing that the proposed measures will affect the independence of the judiciary. 

The amendment calls for judges to be chosen by a joint committee of judges, lawyers and legislators, all under the supervision of the Justice Ministry. The amendment also seeks to limit the powers of the Supreme Court, which may annul laws passed by the Knesset if they are in conflict with the state’s basic laws. 

The reality indicates that the current government is not weak, but rather capable of imposing security and stability. This is linked to a struggle between the executive and judicial authorities, and is exacerbated by the ongoing trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other high-ranking officials, including his preferred interior minister, Arye Deri. Despite this, the government has proven to be resilient and cohesive. 

Israel has experienced similar events in the past, with the largest demonstration in 2012 drawing more than 450,000 participants. Its slogans called for a complete overhaul of the political system, not just the judiciary. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded professionally, forming a national task force to tackle economic issues, introduce stimulus measures and restore internal stability. 

Today, however, Netanyahu is attuned to the sentiment of demonstrators. Justice Minister Yariv Levin is seeking to empower the Knesset to appoint judges, with one proposal being an exception clause allowing Knesset representatives to veto a decision of the Supreme Court by a simple majority. The government is unlikely to back down despite continued protests. 

The Supreme Court has responded with options and solutions, as Justice Esther Hayut outlined in her recent speech. She viewed the proposed legislation as a complete undermining of the judiciary, indicating that the battle may drag on, putting the Israeli political system in danger like never before. 

To date, attempts to reform the political system and its institutions have not been successful. The official opposition in the Knesset lacks alternatives, and the US is trying to step in and force both political sides to reach a compromise. But the matter must be understood in the context of a power struggle, and not in terms of real demands that can affect the stability of the three branches of government. The Israeli public will remain agitated, yet the whole situation remains linked to Netnayhau’s struggle to maintain power. – Tarek Fahmy 

Is Europe’s crisis over?

Al-Ahram, Egypt, February 3

Economists generally agree that the economic crisis has been felt around the world but, lately, differences in opinion have emerged regarding Europe. Data and figures, free of political bias, have been used to assess the situation – and the discrepancies have been found to be minor, stemming from the availability and accuracy of data. 

The onset of the crisis has been marked by Russia’s escalation of conditions for selling gas, which Europe relies on heavily. This includes allocating gas only to countries not hostile to Russia, as well as using the ruble as a hindrance to the export of other Russian commodities, such as grains and materials for advanced industries. 

It was rational for economists to keep a close watch on the rising prices of staple commodities, such as grain and bread (20% increase), milk and eggs (27.8% increase), and oils (34% increase). In light of the West’s boycott of Russia, experts warned of a deepening crisis and potential protests from the European public. 

As the situation evolves, different voices are starting to emerge. It is now being suggested that the situation is not as dire as was previously thought and that we are now in a period of slight deflation rather than a deep recession. Internal and external sentiment indicators suggest that the peak of inflation has passed and the outlook is more positive than six months ago, when it was expected that a deep economic recession would result in power outages. Now, it is anticipated that the contraction period will be much shorter, followed by a stage of slow economic growth. – Ahmed Abd Al-Tawab 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.