(Photo from Al Jazeera showing House Speaker Nabih Berri (Right) asking someone for an explanation as to why Phalange leader Amin Gemayel (Left) is looking so frightfully red)
Suddenly peace has broken out. It is a little surprising as only last night men who had donned militia combat slacks during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war were sat around a conference table in a luxury Doha establishment in their tailor made suits and bickering over how to form the next national unity government and the shape of the 2009 electoral law. It looked like the stalemate would continue but today at around 10:30am the rival politicians announced their agreement in a televised ceremony. At home, the Lebanese are temporarily confused: Shoo? What? You actually agreed?
The deal leans toward being a minor victory for Shiite Hizbullah, who didn’t really make any concessions to the ruling March 14 Coalition during the five days of negotiations. As for the shape of the new government, Hizbullah got 11 ministers, thereby securing their long-standing demand for veto-power. The majority got 16 ministers and the new president gets three. After the opposition announced that as part of the deal, they would remove their camp-city sit-in, the Lebanese elite got their Downtown back: now they can get back to shopping at Marc Jacobs and Elie Saab until they drop. And all the Lebanese will get a President when Michel Suleiman is elected on Sunday.
But as we are all being reminded, this happy period of political agreement may soon be over: in 2009, the government will resign by default after the Spring elections are held. That may actually be the reason the majority finally agreed to Hizbullah’s veto demand- they would never have capitulated had they known it was for a longer period. And the majority has not forgotten their humiliation at the hands of Hizbullah’s superior military force. One thing is certain: Samir Geagea, Amin Gemayel and Saad Al-Hariri will stick to their guns (which despite their efforts, it is widely known they have) and continue to look for foreign help in confronting Hizbullah’s arms. And it is highly likely that once the politicians return to Beirut, so will their disputes.
The real winner in this whole performance is Qatar: they’ve managed to pull the Arab diplomatic success story of the year that might just bump the Saudi’s off the regional superpower list and pave the way for a bigger Qatari role as a mediator in the Middle East.