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A Reprimand Well-Deserved

A Reprimand Well-Deserved

Saturday, 8 May, 2021 - 20:15
Elias Harfoush
Lebanese writer and journalist

It is difficult to find a country other than Lebanon whose leaders are subjected to the insults directed at them by the French government, while they continue to open their doors and arms to every official coming from Paris to visit them.


In other countries, where officials respect the dignity of their country and their citizens, the answer is supposed to be to such insults: This is our country and you are not allowed to interfere in our affairs.


But the politicians in Lebanon know that they are guilty, and that they deserve this reprimand. Therefore, they do not even have the ability to raise their voice in protest to the hurtful words they hear whenever they meet a foreign official, who knows what they have committed against their country and their citizens.


One of those visitors said in a meeting with a number of opposition figures active in civil society: "If Lebanon were subject to an external occupation, this occupier would not have done to the country what its rulers are doing to it."


Nevertheless, despite the reprimand and insults, the Lebanese politicians do not care, and they continue to act with no concern to any advice or threats. The question that imposes itself remains: what is it that they depend on to continue with this intransigence? What makes them refuse to provide any opportunity for a solution that saves the country, which is collapsing, and move away - even for a short period, as French President Emmanuel Macron asked them, at least for a period of six months - to allow Lebanon to catch its breath, and to put together - with international donors, such as the IMF and the European Union - a serious economic rescue project?


The last visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was the latest in a series of French attempts to rescue the Lebanese from the corruption of their leaders. The message he carried was very harsh. Before his arrival in Beirut, he confirmed that he was carrying a message to the politicians, who are obstructing the formation of the government, and a threat that the French government is going to impose sanctions on those politicians involved in corruption. He was also carrying a message of solidarity with the Lebanese, to support them in various health, educational and social fields. The reports about his meetings with the Lebanese officials confirm that he expressed to them France’s disappointment as they did not respond positively to its calls for a speedy formation of a government, in order to facilitate the solution of as much as possible of the crises afflicting Lebanon.


Before and during the visit, Le Drian made it clear that he is dealing differently with the Lebanese politicians he met, compared with his sympathetic words, to the young opposition figures he invited for a meeting at the residence of the French ambassador. There was no clearer message than that: that these politicians no longer represent this people.


On the top of that, Le Drian dealt with the issue of popular representation during the upcoming parliamentary elections, stressing the need to hold the elections as scheduled next year. He asked the opposition groups to unify their ranks and rally around candidates representing them in order to gain the largest amount of representation in parliament. He also added that France would take a stand with its allies on the international scene, if any attempt was made to postpone the elections or to tamper with its results.


In simple words, Le Drian's visit was a clear message to the political class in Lebanon that it has lost any right to continue representing its people after the crimes it had managed to "accomplish" in every field: financial, social and political. The actions of the Lebanese politicians are becoming a threat to the livelihood of the Lebanese people, as they are stealing their money and their savings.


This is a message from a country that had a mandate over Lebanese affairs eight decades ago. It had left Lebanon so that its people could manage their own affairs. This has resulted in a complete collapse of the system on every level because of the greed, corruption, mismanagement and absence of any sense of national responsibility among the Lebanese political class.


Le Drian’s visit was also an indication of France’s intention to withdraw from any role in Lebanon, which it intended to play through President Macron’s initiative, which he had announced during his visit to Beirut in early September of last year. France has done everything it can, but as its officials have said more than once, it cannot replace the Lebanese leaders. "Help us so that we can help you," were the words that its foreign minister repeated more than once.


What do Lebanon’s leaders rely on for their intransigence and indifference? This is a question that one has to keep asking. The painful answer is that they know that their seats are protected by the force of sectarian fanaticism that drives their voters to support them, whatever their actions. They know that the exchange of accusations which is responsible for what happened to the country would not end in identifying the real perpetrators, while there is no strict control of the administration, no will to stop corruption, and no independent judiciary that could guarantee any prosecution of the accused, thanks the political and sectarian protections that are available to them.


It was clear from the start that many obstacles would stand in the way of France’s initiative, as it would stand in the way of any other. While all good intentions towards Lebanon should be welcomed, the truth remains that only the Lebanese people will save their country. The problem is that the Lebanese are dispersed between different religious affiliations and sects ... and they have no time to save their country!


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