For now, avoid friction

President Michel Sleiman speaks during a ceremony in Baabda, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Media reports suggesting that President Michel Sleiman intends to convene a session of National Dialogue should spur politicians to conduct a careful cost-benefit analysis of such a move. An official announcement has yet to be made, but there is talk of a session being held after the Arab summit in Kuwait later this month.

Naturally, there are potential benefits in terms of discussing a long-delayed national defense strategy, but are there any indications that a resumption of National Dialogue won’t have significant costs?

Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government is spending this week winning a vote of confidence in Parliament, after around a month was lost to wrangling over its policy statement. Meanwhile, the end of Sleiman’s mandate is approaching, in late May, and huge political efforts are required to ensure that presidential polls takes place on time, in line with the Constitution.

The objectives of National Dialogue are honorable, and of paramount importance for Lebanon’s immediate future, but is there any chance of this mechanism succeeding, while the rival camps stumbled over the same topic – the role of non-state resistance to Israel – when trying to put together a policy statement for the Salam government?

Any attempt to bring together the same sides that have generated so much turbulence in the executive branch, and bouts of paralysis in the legislature, is likely to create more tension and political instability at a time Lebanon can least afford it.

A magic, behind-the-scenes deal that can suddenly erase all of the disagreement over a national defense strategy would be welcome, but under the current circumstances, it is best to let a long-awaited government finally get down to the job of governing, with as few obstacles in its way as possible.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 20, 2014, on page 7.




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