Mass rallies, or demonstrations, if you prefer the term, have become the latest fashion in Lebanon. We had two over the last ten days. We were treated to a third last night convened by General Aoun and his party referred to as the "Courant Aouniste". We are promised a fourth rally next week convened by Hezbollah and its charismatic leader.
The General who returned from France last year where he had exiled himself over the past eleven or twelve years, has been making a great deal of noise of late. According to him, the current Government of Fouad Siniora is ineffective and that a Government of national union is required to save and govern Lebanon. He has presented himself as the future President and saviour of Lebanon, and to this end, he has entered into a pact with Hezbollah, in the hope that the Shia'a Moslems of Lebanon, who represent a third of the total population would propel him to the Presidency. False hopes, we regret to say and just as well. Aoun as President would be more catastrophic that the current incumbent.
And so the merry go round continues, while Lebanon sinks further into poverty and destitution. And against that dark back drop, Prime Minister Siniora hosted yesterday at the Grand Serail (the seat of Government), an Iftar (a Ramadan dinner) which assembled all the have been who were still capable of handling a fork and knife. Even General Aoun, as former Head of State, was there. Siniora, as Prime Minister and host, delivered the speech of the evening in which he repeated the same ringing phrases regarding democratic rule and the legitimacy of Government. Brave words from a brave man, but they still need to be translated into a coherent and continuous plan of positive action.
Elsewhere, Condoleezza Rice will meet with a number of Arab Foreign Ministers in the hope of bringing enough pressure on Hamas, the Palestinian radical party which had emerged with an overwhelming majority in the last Palestinian elections, to enter into negotiations with Israel, Hamas does not recognise Israel and will not enter into negotiations with it, in the knowledge that Israel is not prepared to concede anything worthwhile. Hamas may not be far wrong in reaching that conclusion, judging from the results of past negotiations, including the much touted Wye Plantation agreement, the end result of which was no more than a road map, which has still to see effective application.
But then, despite the logic of the position of Hamas, what other alternative is there for Hamas or the Palestinians in general? War and violence will not lead to a solution. The one and only possible solution which could lead to positive negotiations is that of "civil disobedience". The back lash to the Israeli economy, which relies heavily on Palestinian labour, would be intolerable for Israel. Such a form of civil disobedience, on the Ghandi pattern, would only be possible if the Arab world is prepared to feed the Palestinians, through the creation of a multi billion dollar fund to the purpose. The Arab world is rich enough to assume that burden, instead of wasting billions of dollars on arms that will never be used.
It is the opinion of the Wizard that the Arab world will do nothing, except to wallow in its futile rhetoric.