Measured response

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri speaks during a news conference at his Downtown residence in Beirut, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

After a tense few days, courtesy of a fiery speech over the weekend by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah that seemed to smother any possibility of a breakthrough in the formation of a much-needed government, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri offered the Lebanese people a semblance of hope with his measured response.

Hariri observed that with Nasrallah’s rhetoric, Hezbollah, in its quest to change the rules of government, sought to shift responsibility for the delay in Cabinet formation upon the premier, and in the process achieve its longstanding ambition to break him.

In his news conference Tuesday, the premier-designate chose to take the higher moral ground, speaking as a statesman without resorting to threats, hostile rhetoric, finger-pointing or promises of an apocalypse.

Rather, he addressed the problem with the needed resolve, making no compromises whether on the Constitution or on his prerogatives and rights in forming a Cabinet in coordination with the president.

At the same time, Hariri’s calm tone, alongside the substance of his message, thwarted Hezbollah’s goal of creating countrywide panic in order to put pressure on the premier to accept the group’s conditions.

Hariri also acknowledged the rights of all parties while making it clear that any infringement on his leadership would not be tolerated. He stressed that in all his activities he aims first to uphold respect for the Constitution and its boundaries, and second to remind all parties, and especially Hezbollah, that hurdles are not in anyone’s interests, and certainly not in Lebanon’s, which has already seen the closure of over 2,400 companies.

Hopefully the message will reach Hezbollah and its allies, who must understand that their plans to break Hariri have been foiled, and also that two can play the game of intransigence.

At the very least the situation has been clearly laid out, and all Lebanese can see who has been standing in the way of the country’s prosperity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 14, 2018, on page 1.




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