Shalom: Jumblatt decision makes real danger for Israel

Druse leader says he will be on side of Syria and Hizbullah, succumbed to military and popular pressure; vice premier says Israel must be prepared.

Nasrallah and Jumblatt 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Nasrallah and Jumblatt 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said Saturday that the decision of the Lebanese Druse Leader Walid Jumblatt to join Hizbullah in establishing a new government creates a real danger of the establishment of an Iranian government on the northern border with Israel.
In remarks at a cultural event in Bat Yam, he said "this is no longer a terrorist organization inspired and supported by Iran, but a real sovereign government."
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He added that "this is a dangerous development that requires Israel to follow closely and be prepared for any future development."
Jumblatt, a potential kingmaker in Lebanon, threw his support Friday behind Hizbullah, a major boost to the Shi'ite militant group that brought down the country's Western-backed government last week.
The influential leader of the Druse sect, refused to say exactly how many lawmakers are with him, but his support is key for any candidate trying to form a government.
In recent days, Jumblatt has gone to Damascus for meetings with Hizbullah's patron, Syria.
"The party will stand firm in support of Syria and the resistance," Jumblatt told reporters, referring to Hizbullah by the popular term.
On Thursday, Jumblatt said he was under great pressure not to name Hariri as the government's next premier despite earlier statements throwing his support behind him, Lebanese paper an-Nahar reported.
He told members of his party that insisting on Hariri as the country's new prime minister would lead to "catastrophic consequences" for the security of the Druse party, himself, and the Druse population in Hizbullah-controlled areas. He added that things "have become greater than him and his ability to maintain the middle ground in a harsh battle in which Hariri's regional and international backers only resort to statements, while his opponents (Hizbullah) turn to all manners of military and popular pressure," according to the report.
Jumblatt said that he is under pressure to name former Lebanese prime minister Omar Karami in place of Hariri.
Lebanon is enduring a serious political crisis over a UN tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Many fear Hizbullah will react violently if its members are named in the court's indictments, which is widely expected.
Ministers from Hizbullah and its allies walked out of the government, forcing its collapse, last week when Prime Minister Saad Hariri — the son of the slain statesman — refused to renounce the tribunal.
Once one of the most ardent supporters of the tribunal, Jumblatt on Friday launched a scathing attack on the court, saying it poses a "threat to national unity and national security."
The support of at least 65 lawmakers is required to form a government in Lebanon's 128-seat Parliament. Hizbullah and its allies already claim 57 seats.
Saad Hariri — who has stayed on as caretaker prime minister and will seek the post again — has 60.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the turmoil in Lebanon
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the turmoil in Lebanon
Jumblatt refused to say whether he had secured the support of enough lawmakers to allow Hizbullah and its allies to form their own government. But he is known to have at least five from his 11-member bloc, which means he needed to get just three more to tip the balance.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will launch formal talks Monday on creating a new government, polling lawmakers on their choices before nominating a prime minister. According to Lebanon's power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shi'ite Muslim.
Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon's population of 4 million.
Lengthy negotiations could lie ahead between Lebanon's Western-backed blocs and the Hizbullah led-alliance. If those fail, Lebanon could see a resurgence of the street protests and violence that have bedeviled the country in the past.
Hizbullah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, is Lebanon's most potent military force.