Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise return to Lebanon comes at a turbulent juncture in the country and the region. His departure three years ago came after he received advice from local and foreign players that his personal security was in danger, but Lebanon’s very future is now in the crosshairs of extremist groups, as demonstrated by recent events in the town of Arsal near the Syrian border.
Hariri took a clear stand during this time of crisis, announcing Saudi Arabia’s decision to provide $1 billion in funding to the Lebanese Army and security bodies to help them confront the extremists, and offering his own firm political support to them in this struggle.
Hariri’s return is also expected to provide a significant source of support for moderates in his Sunni community, who have been frustrated with the absence of leadership on the ground.
Politicians from various factions have welcomed Hariri’s return and it is also hoped his presence in Lebanon will lead to a breakthrough on the domestic political scene, which has been mired in paralysis for several months.
But the initial wave of positive remarks by politicians is only one part of the equation. For Hariri’s return to have significant repercussions, all sides should respond by making moves that end the deadlock gripping the political scene.
There has been too much time spent talking about the challenges and threats faced by Lebanon; in the wake of Hariri’s return, other politicians must respond with tangible plans of action that can move the situation in the right direction.
If sound initiatives are put forward, they will deserve all the praise and positive response being generated by Hariri’s return to Lebanon.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2014, on page 7.