After a considerably long split, Lebanon’s rival groups Hezbollah and the Future Movement restored communications shortly after caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced his resignation last month, political sources from both camps told The Daily Star.
A source from the March 14 alliance said Hezbollah sent former Prime Minister Saad Hariri a “goodwill message” last week.
A senior March 8 source also confirmed the revival of contacts between the Future Movement and Hezbollah by revealing that Hariri had sent several “direct and indirect” messages to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah through Future Movement Secretary-Generay Ahmad al-Hariri and Beirut MP Nuhad Mashnouq.
Last week, the Future Movement’s secretary-general paid a visit to the prominent Shiite Jaafar clan in Baalbek’s village of Labweh after Hussein Kamel Jaafar was taken by gunmen rumored to be linked to the armed Syrian opposition, reportedly based in the neighboring majority-Sunni village of Arsal. Ahmad al-Hariri called for nipping the strife in the bud and for Sunni-Shiite unity.
But the source admitted that there were differences within the March 8 alliance over how to deal with the Future Movement’s new strategy of openness.
Several of the coalition’s factions are warning Hezbollah against a “scheme” plotted by the rival party, evoking memories of the infamous quartet alliance of 2005 when the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party joined forces with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement for the parliamentary polls.
“Many within March 8 think that the Future Movement is seeking a temporary alliance to secure a majority in Parliament, and afterward will pull back on previous commitments,” said the source. “Hezbollah are not dupes. The scenario of 2005 will not be repeated.”
The source maintained that the March 8 alliance and Hezbollah in particular, had come to the realization that this year’s parliamentary polls originally scheduled for June 9 would face a technical delay at least.
“The technical delay is now a reality,” he said. “The crucial question is whether this so-called technical delay will last for six months? One year? Or two years?”
The source said the debate within the March 8 coalition was currently not focused on the identity of the person to head the new Cabinet, but rather, the objectives of the next government.
“Because the lifespan of the new government could go up to two years, the March 8 alliance prefers that a political rather than a neutral-technocrat Cabinet be formed,” he said. “A political government will help preserve security and stability.”
A meeting gathering representatives from various March 8 groups is expected to convene at Speaker Nabih Berri’s residence in Ain al-Tineh Wednesday to discuss stances on the electoral law, the shape and objective of the new Cabinet and possibly the identity of the candidate the coalition will nominate to head the new government.
Hezbollah and March 8 are also aware that for the time being, all options remain open regarding the shape of the political scene in the near future, the source said.
According to the source, March 8 believes that the only two viable options so far are either the formation of a political government where all parties, including March 8 and March 14, as well as centrist parties are represented, or the formation of a March 14 and centrist Cabinet, should March 8 refrain from taking part.
However, the source argued that it would be impossible to form a Cabinet that was a replica of the resigned Mikati government.
The source said that several obstacles stood in the way of forming such a government, as the reasons that led to Mikati’s resignation were still in force.
Other obstacles in the way of forming a new Cabinet that might leave March 8 reluctant to proceed were the set of conditions voiced by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt.
Jumblatt rejects the idea of the Free Patriotic Movement retaining control over specific portfolios – mainly the Telecoms and the Energy ministries – and reportedly demands that caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour be excluded from any new government because of the pro-Syrian stances he voiced during Arab League meetings.
“There are several factors that push for political paralysis in Lebanon,” the source said. “Foreign players are certainly implicated in the current political game, but local as well as foreign players so far concur on keeping the Lebanon front calm in light of events in Syria.”