By Haaretz Editorial
The murder of the Lebanese industry minister, Pierre Gemayel, poses a
difficult test to the fragile political balance of power in Lebanon. Not only
because this was a political murder - there have been many such events in the
history of that country - but also because of fears that any more
assassinations will bring Lebanon closer to a renewal of a civil war that
could spin out of control.
The murder occurred at a time when the government of Fouad Siniora is facing a
situation in which it may lose its ability to impose its authority, and thus a
political vacuum may emerge - similar to that which exists in both the
Palestinian Authority and Iraq. These two troubling examples make very clear
that in fact a political vacuum does not really exist, rather that radical and
terrorist elements are trying to take the place of a weak regime. Lebanon is
still not such a country. It has institutions of government and powerful
political forces that recognize the value of democracy and would like to
continue along its path in order to carry out changes. It is also the sole
example of its kind in the Middle East - a state that of its own accord grants
equal rights to members of all ethnic and religious groups - and in this it
can serve as an example for emulation.
The responses of public figures and citizens to the Gemayel murder, seeking to
prevent violent reactions, suggest that there are fears of civil war, but even
more that there's a desire to prevent one at any price. We can assume that in
spite of the assassinations in the country, the 15 years that have passed
since the civil war was brought to an end have created solid foundations of
appreciation for the democratic process and a willingness for close
cooperation among the various groups and political movements. Evidence of this
is that no Lebanese groups are any longer willing to accept assassinations as
a legitimate means of achieving political ends.
However, Lebanon still appears to be unable to counter the challenge on its
own, and it requires effective international assistance. On Tuesday, Prime
Minister Siniora made clear the kind of assistance that is necessary: the
quick establishment of an international tribunal that will try the suspects in
the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and in other murders.
Siniora believes that any delay in the establishment of such a tribunal will
only lead the assassins of Gemayel to think that anything is acceptable. The
international community, which is investing forces and efforts in order to
calm the situation following the recent war, cannot remain indifferent to such
Israel should also not pretend to be indifferent to the developments in
Lebanon, especially when they could lead to political change in the
neighboring country, which could again become a focal point for war. However,
a very high and sealed fence should be built in order to differentiate between
concerned interest in what goes on in Lebanon and intervention in its affairs.
This is an explosive moment, in which Israel must help Lebanon calm down.
Israel's small contribution to minimizing the potential for conflagration in
Lebanon could be made by ending the provocative overflights in Lebanese
airspace, declaring a willingness to withdraw from the Shaba Farms, and even
announcing a willingness to hold talks with Bashar Assad on a diplomatic
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