After around 180 people were killed and more than 6,000 were wounded in a massive explosion that hit Beirut’s port, a quarter of a million Lebanese citizens were left with homes that were unfit to live in.
Following massive protests, Lebanon’s government resigned. However, even following the resignation of the government, the Lebanese people continue to protest and are now demanding the removal of their entire political elite. They are hanging dolls of Hassan Nasrallah and burning pictures of him. The question remains, what happens next in the Land of the Cedars?
The ICC gives its verdict next week on the brutal 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, and Hezbollah is likely to be held accountable for the Hariri assassination if there is a just verdict. At this time Hariri’s son Saad Hariri is sitting in the opposition. Lebanon’s present health minister in the care-taker government announced the need for a two-week lockdown to stop the recent spike in coronavirus cases and the country is overtaken by anti-Hezbollah protests following the horrific Beirut explosion,the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achronot reported.
For the brutal terror organization, this can potentially be a game changer that weakens their grip over the country.
Boaz Ganor told the Jerusalem Post that this could lead to Lebanon either entering into an emergency care-takers government without Hezbollah, Hezbollah becoming the de jure rather than the de facto ruler of Lebanon, or another civil war in the country. Nevertheless, since Hezbollah is unlikely to step aside for the greater good and the Lebanese people will most likely not give up their struggle, a civil war may be the most likely option.
Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar does not believe that the Lebanese people will be victorious in any civil war and that change is not possible in Lebanon: “There is no way to get Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Only if the US invades Lebanon and searches for all of their hide-outs and weapons caches under schools, hospitals, etc., is it possible. I do not see any country in the world that would sacrifice their soldiers to do the job. Hezbollah will not give up and Iran will not leave its Lebanese project, which they worked on for 40 years, since 1980. Nobody is strong enough to control Hezbollah.”
According to Dr. Kedar, “Hezbollah has bought many people, especially in the political arena, who are not Shia but collaborate with the Shia for they got the jobs, they can steal money from the state thanks to the jobs and they are immune from being hit by Hezbollah if they cooperate with Hezbollah. Everybody does it for everyone suspects that others are doing the same. There is no trust among people who are not Shia. Everyone suspects that the other collaborates with Hezbollah, so why should anyone not join this party? Many people are silent for this reason. This is the situation, the saddening situation in a state which the world allows Iran to eat up from within.”
How much longer can the Lebanese people suffer quietly under the present reality? The Beirut Port explosion brought Lebanon from a difficult situation to a catastrophe. As we speak, Hezbollah is hiding 150,000 missiles in homes, schools, soccer fields, etc. As the Beirut explosion demonstrated, each of these weapons caches pose a danger to the Lebanese people.
For this reason, the Lebanese people are taking to the streets, for they understand that Hezbollah is endangering their lives and has greatly contributed to the economic woes that Lebanon is presently experiencing. It has been reported that hospitals that were treating Lebanese coronavirus patients were also adversely affected due to the present reality. This only encourages further resentment in the Lebanese street towards Hezbollah.
Former Israel Consul General Dr. Yitzchak Ben Gad noted, “Now, there was this terrible explosion in Beirut and the poor people become poorer than they are, corruption continues, and the destruction caused depression for many people in Beirut. Given that Hezbollah is a government inside a government, many countries are not running to help. The Arab Gulf states like Bahrain, Emirates, etc. will not rush to help for Hezbollah is supporting Iran. These countries see Iran as a threat to their own safety and security.”
Ben Gad definitely agrees that this present situation can lead to a civil war “between Hezbollah and the Christians, Sunnis, etc., who feel that the situation cannot continue." Nobody can predict what will happen. Lebanon is in big trouble. The President of France, when he visited, said to the Lebanese, you must change the political system, because many potential contributors will not help so long as you are corrupt.
Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, believes far more needs to happen than the resignation of the government if there is going to be true change in Lebanon, yet does not feel that change is impossible: “The resignation of the government cannot be a solution that satisfies the Lebanese people, since the government and its figures are characters in a puppet show orchestrated by Hezbollah. The only thing that can bring change to Lebanon is disarming Hezbollah and prosecuting the terror organization for corruption, the assassination of Hariri, the execution of its political opponents, the explosion at the Beirut port, and also for the money that was stolen from the Lebanese public. Hezbollah should also be prosecuted for the war crimes that they have committed against civilians in Syria, Israel, Yemen, etc.”
Human Rights Watch is pushing for an impartial Beirut Port Explosion probe, where Hezbollah could be potentially prosecuted for endangering Lebanese civilians.
In conclusion, the Lebanese people face a difficult situation. Hezbollah is no Mubarak. Massive protests will likely not cause Hezbollah to go away and leave Lebanon alone to a caretaker government. They are a brutal terror organization that idealizes martyrdom and they will fight till the death to preserve their political power. They have no qualms about slaughtering Lebanese people, if it will result in them staying in power.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Lebanese people should despair and give up all hope regarding having a better government, resigning themselves to the fate of living under Hezbollah tyranny. According to MEMRI, Lebanon’s Ambassador to Jordan Tracey Chamoun resigned for she was disgusted by what she saw. I am positive that she is not the only Lebanese person to feel that way and if the masses want change, then they will fight for it to happen, even if it means having another civil war.
MEMRI also reported that former Lebanese Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi referred to Hezbollah as “a terrorist organization” that murdered “Hariri” and he called for there to be protection for anyone who investigates the Beirut Port explosion.
If an impartial investigation occurs into the Beirut Port Explosion, this accompanies the soon to be published results of the Hariri investigation, and Hezbollah is held legally accountable for its actions, then perhaps lawfare will be an effective tool in restoring what was once the Paris of the Middle East to its former glory, provided it includes a proper enforcement mechanism.
This way, there is a slim chance for change to occur without Lebanon suffering from the blood spilled during another civil war. According to Safadi, “Israel has an important diplomatic role to play in putting pressure on the international community to implement this vision, which can assure both peace and security along the Lebanese border and even a good shot at realizing regional stability in the Middle East.”
The future of Beirut as the Paris of the Middle East depends upon it.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”