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An Emergency Meeting at The Remote Hotel

An Emergency Meeting at The Remote Hotel

Monday, 10 August, 2020 - 10:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Suddenly, the atmosphere became very tense at the remote hotel. Features of growing turmoil and the smell of fresh sorrow invaded the place. The scenes are horrific. An explosion of the size of an earthquake hit the city.

It killed people and destroyed walls, balconies and windows. Never before had the city been struck by a killer of this kind. As if a series of wars folded in one stab. As if mountains of hatred have attacked the living. A season of death, lethality and destruction.

The hotel residents feared for the country, in which and for which they were martyred. They were afraid that their last identity papers would be lost, the papers that prove their belonging to that place, which fell in the custody of men the size of balconies.

As sailors try to hold together to avoid drowning, they called for a meeting before the official invitation arrived. They all flocked to the hall. Maarouf Saad, Kamal Jumblatt, Tony Franjieh, Bashir Gemayel, Nazem Al-Qadri, Rashid Karami, Dany Chamoun and Elie Hobeika. They were followed by Rafik Hariri, Bassil Fleihan, Antoine Ghanem, Pierre Gemayel, Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Mohammad Shatah, Francois Hajj, Wissam Eid and Wissam Al-Hassan.

Before the opening of the session, Karami asked President Rene Mouawad for the name of the Lebanese Prime Minister, and he replied that it was Hassan Diab.

He commented that he was never against expanding the membership of the Prime Minister’s Club and injecting new blood in it, but he did not believe that this position should be given to an amateur or a trainee.

He said that Lebanon paid a heavy price for an equation that secures the right to share powers and decisions, and that returning to breeding presidents without a history and no future is a return to the time of monopoly.

Mouawad asked the attendees to stand for a minute of silence to mourn those killed in the port explosion, and they responded. The session opened with a discussion on the disaster that struck the Lebanese capital and initial estimates of the high casualties and the enormous property losses. He referred to President Emmanuel Macron’s visit, acknowledging the embarrassment he felt when he heard the visiting president repeat his appeal to Lebanese officials to fight corruption and help themselves so that the world can help them.

Mouawad stopped at the statement of President Michel Aoun, who considered the demand for an international investigation a waste of time. The late president said that the probe into his assassination did not make a single step forward, and that the case remained cold despite the passing of three decades.

Gebran Tueni intervened. He said that Aoun’s position was a continuation of the ambiguous approach he took regarding the wave of assassinations that struck Lebanon in 2005. Back then, he argued that the assassinations should not be politicized, as if they were caused by a dispute over a parking lot. Tueni explained that Aoun’s position was part of his strategy to reach the presidency.

Here, Dany Chamoun interfered, congratulating his daughter Tracy on resigning from her post as Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan and joining the revolution. He admitted making a big mistake the day he was drawn in by the general’s storm.

Kamal Jumblatt, for his part, expressed relief that his son Walid was opposed to transforming the Baabda Palace into a retirement home for Yarze generals. He acknowledged that he did not regret the circumstances that led to the decision to assassinate him, considering that it was better to sleep dear in a grave than to sleep accused in a palace.

Then Bashir Gemayel spoke with some anger. He said that he did not know the current Lebanese president, stressing there was nothing in common between this president and the officer with the same namesake.

He pointed out that he had long avoided attacking the presidency, but was now aware of the terrible disinformation process that led to the current situation.

Gemayel’s voice rose: “When the official does not dare to wander in the afflicted Ashrafieh area, fearing the anger of its residents, how can he claim to continue to represent them and express their aspirations and interests? Which mandate did the president use to undermine Lebanon’s traditional Arab and international friendships, in exchange for inflating a parliamentary bloc or a ministerial share?

How is a president entitled to waste years of the lives of the Lebanese, while boasting of non-existent power and achievements that lie only in his imagination? How can a president accept that the name of the country under his tenure becomes synonymous with corruption, isolation and failure to the point that the world fears to entrust with blankets for the displaced and infant formula?

Gemayel turned to Hobeika and asked him: “Is it true that General Aoun was your partner in the tripartite agreement that Syria sponsored between the three militias, as you mentioned in your memoirs?” Hobeika replied: “The fact is that secret meetings were held at night between me and General Aoun, once in the town of Halat and other times in his house, and we were close to each other. The military aspect of the tripartite agreement was prepared by Aoun and received through Officer Fouad Al-Ashkar, who was in charge of Aoun’s security.”

“We also agreed to raise problems when Amin Gemayel went to Damascus... Then I sent him that I would attack Samir Geagea in Ashrafieh, so he suggested entering from a place where the Lebanese army is not stationed,” he added.

During the session, Samir Kassir was turning the pages of a book entitled: “Bouteflika ... The Secret Story.” George Hawi noticed that Kassir was highlighting phrases that talk about the damage caused to the president by his brother Said, as well as Bouteflika’s own insistence “not to leave the palace except to the grave.”

Rafik Hariri’s intervention was concise. He said he had no grudge against his killers, but he was angry at their insistence on assassinating the nation. He said that he regretted General Aoun’s policy that jeopardized the country, the state, and the Maronites in particular. He called for joining efforts to rebuild what was destroyed.

As interventions continued, the news from Beirut got darker. Mouawad suspended the session and announced that the master of the palace had been summoned to appear before the court of old and new martyrs.

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