The formation of a new government in Lebanon should have become significantly easier – in theory – in the wake of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s announcement that he was ready to accept the participation of Hezbollah in the next Cabinet.
But Friday’s statement has yet to produce any positive signals from the March 8 camp, which has long accused its March 14 rivals of trying to block the formation of a government.
Instead, politicians from this coalition are falling back on old rhetoric, as they talk about their long-standing conditions on issues such as Hezbollah’s weapons and status as a resistance group, or relinquishing certain portfolios in a new Cabinet.
March 8 politicians can look no further than the Baabda Declaration if they want to move the process forward; this document, which Hezbollah originally endorsed, does nothing to downgrade the status of Hezbollah’s resistance. A decision to adhere to the Baabda Declaration could provide a face-saving means for all parties if they truly have good intentions about seeing Lebanon exit a state of political paralysis.
Hariri has engaged in a bit of a gamble by endorsing the participation of Hezbollah in the government, since some of his allies have reservations about such a step. But Hariri has opted for the country’s greater good and believes the higher national interest dictates such a step. The question is whether the other side has a coherent response to such a truly significant act of politics, or whether it is incapable of making the hard decisions that go with positions of responsibility.
The country is in dire straits and Hariri recognized the overriding need for stability. Will March 8 prove that it shares this view?
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 20, 2014, on page 7.