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Jumblatt’s Reconciliations

April 20, 2009

Interesting articles in al-Hayat and as-Sharq al-Awsat today about Walid Jumblatt’s reconciliation gathering with Talal Arsalan.  Al-Hayat reports that yesterday Jumblatt said the following:

ان الانتخابات مرحلة مهمة في لبنان «لكن الأهم هــو ما بعـد الانتخابات لحماية الوحدة الوطنية ولتحقيق المصالحة التي هي الأساس في تثبيت القضية العربية الوطنية واحتضان القضية الكبرى قضية فلسطين».

The elections are a an important stage in Lebanon, “but the most important  is after the elections to protect national unity and realize the reconciliation that is the basis in settling the national Arab issue and embracing the larger issue of Palestine.

Roughly a year ago Jumblatt was the March 14 lightning rod who threatened Hezbollah’s weapons, now he drifts increasingly towards more centrist and conventional positions.  The al-Hayat piece continues:

ويأتي إعلان جنبلاط استعداده للانفتاح على «حزب الله» بعد تواصله المستمر مع رئيس المجلس النيابي نبيه بري فيما الاتصالات شبه مقطوعة بين الأخير وعدد من القيادات الرئيسة في 14 آذار باستثناء تواصله من حين الى آخر برئيس كتلة «المستقبل» النيابية سعد الحريري.

Jumblatt’s announcement of his preparations for an openness towards Hezbullah after his continuous communication with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri comes when contacts are virtually cut off between the later and a nmber of the leaders in March 14 with the exception of his communication from time to time with the leader of the Future Parliamentary Bloc Saad Hariri.

While most March 14 leaders are hardening ranks (or, the undetermined electoral lists notwithstanding, at least trying to), Jumblatt is keeping his options open.  This really doesn’t bode well for March 14 that Jumblatt feels the need to shift his position, though it is not surprising.

Finally:

كما ان تأكيد جنبلاط الانفتاح يمكن ان يلقي الضوء على ما ستكون عليه الخريطة السياسية في لبنان بعد الانتخابات النيابية التي من شأنها، بحسب قول مراقبين، لـ «الحياة» ان تفتح الباب امام حصول تحولات سياسية جديدة تعيد خلط الأوراق خلاف ما هو حاصل حالياً من انقسام حاد بين الأكثرية و المعارضة، وربما هذا ما اخذ يقلق رئيس «تكتل التغيير والإصلاح» العماد ميشال عون الذي ما زال يتشدد في مفاوضاته مع بري برعاية «حزب الله» في شأن التفاهم على اسماء المرشحين في دائرتي جزين وبعبدا باعتبار ان مقربين منه يحاولون استكشاف حدود العلاقة المستقبلية بين جنبلاط ورئيس المجلس الذي لا يترك مناسبة إلا ويشيد فيها بمواقف رئيس الحزب التقدمي

Also Jumblatt’s confirmation of the opening can shine light on what will happen to the political map in Lebanon after the Parliamentary elections that themselves, according to what some observers said to al-Hayat, it opens the door to achieving new political transformations reshuffling the cards.  In contrast to the current sharp division between the majority and opposition, perhaps this is what worries General Michel Aoun, the leader of the Change and Reform Bloc who continues to harden in his negotiations with Berri under the sponsorship of Hezbollah on the matter of understanding the names of the candidates in the districts of Jezin and Baabda, considering that those near to him try to discover the extent of the relationship between Jumblatt and the Head of Parliament, who misses no opportunity to praise the positions of  leader of the Progressive Party.

There also seems to be unease from Aoun’s camp at the relationship between Jumblatt and Berri in particular.  Still, I think that this is more likely part of a broader strategy on the part of the Hezbollah dominated Opposition to weaken the ranks and resolve of March 14 in the weeks leading up to the elections.  For Jumblatt’s part he is merely trying to hedge his bets and observers ought to view him as a bellweather in the coming weeks.  All that said, the refrain that the elections are not “fateful” as Nasrallah stated some weeks ago, coupled with Jumblatt’s recent indications of politicking following the elections, suggests that at least some of the major players view June 7 as part of a larger bargaining process.

To add another layer of complexity, the reconciliation event was supposed to include Jumblatt, Arsalan as well as a representative from Hezbollah, but apparently the Party of God was not present.  The asharq al-Awsat article gives no clear reason for the Party’s absence, but it seems that perhaps they were not satisfied with the text of the reconciliation document for some reason.

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