The dramatic events in the Lebanese town of Arsal over the weekend require an all-out effort by national leaders to contain the repercussions and move forward.
The action plan, however, must be comprehensive in order to be viable. All of the country’s political factions, religious leaders and civic organizations must stand firmly behind the Army as it works to stem the flow of militancy from Syria. While the Army has received a large show of support, the military and other measures taken on the ground must be in line with the law. Also, the responses should be even-handed, so that a given community doesn’t feel it is being singled out for retribution because of a situation that is largely beyond its control.
But at a broader political level, the presidential vacancy continues to block Lebanon’s ability to react. Leading political factions must engage in talks, whether directly or indirectly, to rectify this abnormal state of affairs. They must elect someone who can bridge the domestic divide by reaching out to all sides, and who enjoys a good reputation with regional and international powers.
This should be followed quickly by the formation of an all-inclusive Cabinet led by Tammam Salam or another candidate of his standing. Other, related priorities are enacting a parliamentary vote law that grants Christians more say in selecting their MPs, and holding the polls by early next year. Finally, national dialogue must tackle Hezbollah’s arms, as well as long-delayed political and economic reforms.
With Lebanon’s Army in the line of fire, some might say moving ahead on the political front is a luxury, but the only path to true stability lies in ending the paralysis that has blocked action for far too long.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 04, 2014, on page 7.