The formation of a new government with the participation of all elements in the Lebanese political arena is a positive step, political sources told The Daily Star. The Cabinet formation also sets the stage for the presidential election scheduled for this spring and gives relevant ministers the opportunity to follow up on political, security, economic and day-to-day issues at a time when Lebanese citizens are increasingly anxious about what the future will hold for their country. The sources added that the new government officials would be forced to exert serious efforts to curb what the West has dubbed “regional terrorism,” particularly in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. These efforts, to be led by President Michel Sleiman along with the new Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Basil, must work in conjunction with new diplomatic agreements in the region, namely the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
Still, Western diplomats who have recently met with Lebanese officials stress that while the formation of the new Cabinet will improve stability in the country, a full cessation of hostilities across the region proves elusive.
The source quoted a Western ambassador as saying that, “forming the Cabinet is an internal affair and it will improve the situation and will secure the minimum level of stability [in Lebanon]. As for regional peace, it’s still far away.”
The new government has major responsibilities ahead, the sources added. In the event a new president is not elected as scheduled, the Cabinet will assume executive powers regardless of whether it has won a vote of confidence in Parliament.
One source said the new Cabinet lineup restored balance to the Lebanese government, something that was disrupted when Saad Hariri’s government collapsed, making way for the March 8 Cabinet in 2011. The participation of the Future Movement and March 14 Christians represented by the Kataeb Party in the new Cabinet, despite the Lebanese Forces’ refusal to participate, suggests that equilibrium has been re-established, at least for now.
Both internal and foreign parties played a significant role in the formation of the Cabinet, sources told The Daily Star.
Sources noted that three important factors had led to the formation of the new government. Communication between the head of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt and Speaker Nabil Berri which led to an initial agreement to push forward with the 8-8-8 Cabinet, galvanized the formation of the government which was announced Saturday.
Second, constant shuttling by Jumblatt’s political aide Wael Abou Faour between different parties and his continuous efforts to posit feasible solutions played a major role in the creation of the new Cabinet.
The third major factor which led to the establishment of the new Cabinet is the as of yet unannounced understanding between former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the head of the Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun. The details of this arrangement will be made public soon, sources said.
Foreign parties, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are believed to have played a significant role in facilitating the Cabinet formation as well.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s openness to the March 8 camp and his willingness to participate in the new Cabinet shows a decisive commitment by Saudi Arabia to once again play a role in the Lebanese political arena. This dynamic was highlighted further by the meeting between Hariri and the Saudi monarch last Friday, one day before the new Cabinet was announced.
Sources also added that rapprochement between the West and Iran played a pivotal role in efforts to form the Cabinet, which all parties agree is essential for preserving stability in Lebanon.
The sources added that the formation of this Cabinet was a sign that internal and foreign players hope to detach Lebanon from the regional crises in an attempt to avoid any further Sunni-Shiite strife and to ease the internal political bickering between the two major political camps in the country.