BEIRUT: The young leader of the Waed Party called on the Lebanese and particularly Christians to maintain long-term strategic ties with their Arab surrounding as sought by his father, the party’s founder, late Elie Hobeika.
On the eve of a Mass marking his father’s assassination Monday, Joe Hobeika recalled key events in Lebanon’s recent history in an interview with The Daily Star. The young but level-headed politician said the West has to a large extent served its short-term interests in Lebanon eventually at the expense of its allies.
The former head of the Lebanese Forces Elie Hobeika was killed in a car bomb on Jan. 24, 2002, after he announced his decision to testify before a Belgian court investigating war crimes in massacres committed against residents of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in 1982, believed to be undertaken by Christian militias backed up by Israel.
As he assessed past experiences, Joe Hobeika elaborated on the party’s founding principles as based on the geopolitical and sectarian dynamics governing Lebanon’s internal politics and regional status.
“The principles are simple. There is a reality to our geography, to our geopolitical situation, to our sectarian situation that we should look at and accordingly deal with every type of political position or decide on what direction to take,” he said.
The 27-year-old politician said it was of vital importance that Lebanese parties take into consideration, when assuming political choices, strategic long-term relationships with their surroundings, particularly Arab states.
“It is important to be aware of tactics employed by the West, which is interested in achieving certain goals on a short-term basis with no need for a long-term relationship with Lebanon.” he said “Whereas,” Hobeika added, “our neighbors like Syria have a need for strategic and long-term relationships.”
He said these strategic long-standing relations will always be there and affect the way we do business and politics in the country.
According to Hobeika, the West invites itself to the region to pressure one of the parties with strategic influence and then retreats after, in most cases, striking a deal at the expense of parties allied with it.
Recalling his father’s political path before his assassination, Hobeika called on Lebanese Christians to integrate with their surrounding and deepen their roots in the East. “Christians should embrace their Eastern Christian identity where Christianity originated and will remain,” he said.
Hobeika said his father, who held several ministerial portfolios in the post Civil War era, sought to bridge the gap among the Lebanese when he approved in 1985 the Syrian-brokered tripartite agreement with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri.
The tripartite agreement, considered the prelude of the Taif Accord that ended Lebanon’s 15-year Civil War five years later, collapsed after most of the then-Christian leaders opposed it.
The young Hobeika said the tripartite agreement had been obstructed by the U.S. in an attempt to negotiate with Syria on behalf of the Lebanese.
“The tripartite agreement aimed to stop the war and to come to an agreement among the Lebanese with the Syrian as an arbitrator but there was a deeper goal: to break the isolation the Christian community at the time found itself facing,” Hobeika said.
“The tripartite agreement was abolished by the U.S. because it was their deal to ratify with the Syrians,” he said. “The [U.S.] thought of Christians as their cards to play and according to them cards should not play themselves.”
Asked whom he suspected was behind his father’s assassination, Hobeika said he believed it was Israel.
He played down arguments claiming that third parties planned the murder of his father because the killing would have been automatically blamed on Israel, since Elie Hobeika planned to testify against it in Brussels.
“If it was someone other than Israel, they could have waited until after the trial because they would have won both ways,” said Hobeika. “My father would have condemned the Israelis in his testimony, and once that was achieved they could have killed him.”
He said his father wanted to reveal the truth of the the Sabra and Shatila massacres, which Israel blamed on Christians in Lebanon. “The image of the Lebanese Christian resistance was tarnished and this bothered my father,” he said. “The Israelis got away with it.”
Hobeika warned some Lebanese groups against maintaining support for the U.N.-backed tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The politician accused Israel of standing behind the court, in a bid to strike a blow at Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal and to weaken the party in Lebanon’s internal political power struggle.
Hobeika said the tribunal was exploiting some Lebanese as tools to deal a blow to Hezbollah’s weapons rather than vice versa and he added that such a scenario would backfire at those groups. “Some think the tribunal is a weapon against Hezbollah,” he said. “This court is a cause for war,” Hobeika warned.
According to him, the tribunal was behaving in the best interests of Israel and it is crucial for the Israelis that this tribunal goes forward. “What is crucial for the Israelis is inversely crucial for us; it is crucial for us that this court be stopped,” he said.
As for the current standing of the Waed party, whose three initials in Arabic stand for patriotism, secularism and democracy, Hobeika said irrespective of inter-Lebanese conflicts over power sharing, his party stood alongside the March 8 coalition.
He said the position of the Waed Party is the same endorsed by the March 8. “The tribunal has made obvious mistakes and lost its credibility, the March 14 should have the same reservations and that is when we reach a common ground,” he added.
Hobeika said the tribunal has proved unreliable on several occasions.
“This tribunal is handling an issue like a bomb and you do not give a bomb to someone who is not credible or makes mistakes,” he said. “Some people say fine, all tribunals make mistakes; no this tribunal cannot afford to make mistakes, we cannot afford to make mistakes,” he said.