What neutrality really means for Lebanon


All the crises and conflicts that have arisen in Lebanon were and are the continuation or crystallization of crises and conflicts on a regional and international scale.

by Najib Fayad -Source: Annahar

A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. (AP Photo)

For or against neutrality? With or against Hezbollah? For or against the Arabs? Many speak of neutrality but unfortunately without understanding either the meaning or the scope but on the other hand want to use it for political and sectarian purposes as if they had not already done enough damages for Lebanon… Positive and permanent neutrality of Lebanon, recognized and guaranteed by the United Nations (UN) is the choice of a country open to the world, independent and even diplomatic player.

There is a debate around this idea today. If the idea of Lebanon’s neutrality has been mentioned by different parties and leaders throughout the recent history of Lebanon, the positive and permanent neutrality of the country, recognized and guaranteed internationally, was one of the recommendations in 1982 of the Gamma Group and more recently, in 2007, one of the proposals of the Liberty Front. This international guarantee was given to Austria after World War II. Since then, the UN has passed two resolutions recognizing the neutrality of countries: resolution 880 of November 4, 1993 for Cambodia and resolution 50/80 of December 12, 1995 for Turkmenistan. On the other hand, the Alexandria Protocol of October 7, 1944, which is the founding document of the Arab League, recognizes the Lebanese government declaration of October 7, 1943 (by Riad Solh): the complete and true independence of Lebanon, independence of its foreign policy, its exclusive national sovereignty and the integrity of the internationally recognized Lebanese borders, without recourse to Western protection nor to unity or union with the Arabs. This protocol should be respected by the Arabs or else Lebanon should withdraw from the League.

No party (Hezbollah or other) should pledge allegiance to a foreign power or impose on the Lebanese its friendships or enmities towards it. Neutrality requires an exclusively national allegiance. Nor should it be a means of imposing on Lebanon a policy or even a foreign allegiance hostile to Iran, to Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and to Hezbollah. The Lebanese economy, already in crisis, is hit by new US sanctions against Iran, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and Hezbollah. Half of the Lebanese now live below the poverty line, which therefore affects all communities and all partisan bases, without exception. Lebanon therefore cannot afford to be against the United States. This does not mean that Lebanon should be against Iran and the Syria of Bashar al-Assad. The Sultanate of Oman has adopted positive neutrality, that is, a policy of openness towards all regional and international powers, including the United States and Iran, and acts as a mediator between them. Why not Lebanon? No Lebanese party or leader can claim such a diplomatic role. On the other hand, the Lebanese state can fully assume this role. Lebanon must be open to the world: the United States, Europe, the Arab Gulf countries, China, Russia, Iran, Japan, India, Brazil, Africa, etc. This cultural, religious, economic and diplomatic openness is the meaning of Lebanon’s positive and permanent neutrality, guaranteed and recognized by the UN.

The Israeli army did not completely withdraw from Lebanon in 2000 and continues to occupy the Shebaa farms, the hills of Kfarchouba and the north of the village of Ghajar. The Israelis say they took these territories from the Syrians during the 1967 war – in which Lebanon was not belligerent. In fact, the Syrians gradually occupied these strategic territories in Lebanon between 1943 and 1967, and never wanted to withdraw from them. Since the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 south of the demarcation line (known as the blue line) in accordance with United Nations resolution 425 (1978), the Syrians have never provided documents certifying that these territories are Lebanese although Bashar el -Assad has confirmed this, and despite the fact that legal title deeds are only issued by the Lebanese authorities. This situation allows the Israelis to occupy these lands indefinitely. The route of the blue line in 1948 had been accepted by the Lebanese authorities at that time, subject to the sectors of Rmeich, Mtolleh, Adaisseh and Shebaa. There are therefore several disputed territorial points between Lebanon and Israel. In fact, the internationally recognized border is the 1923 Paulet Newcombe Line (which still places seven Lebanese villages on the other side of the border).

The Paulet Newcombe line was also not respected by France which, while it was the mandatory power, ceded in 1932, against the will of the Lebanese authorities at the time, the Houleh plain to Palestine, then under British mandate. Hezbollah is starting to run out of money due to the economic, financial and currency crises in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. The positive and permanent neutrality recognized and guaranteed by the United Nations is not a weakness. With that strength which would ensure the sympathy of all the countries of the world, Lebanon could finally see the delimitation of its land and sea borders clarified and thus recover its lands as well as an end to violations of its airspace by Israel. So it would be a great victory. Hezbollah fighters could then return to civilian life or join the state armed forces (or even a national guard to be created) to which heavy weapons and missiles would be handed over. The Lebanese state could only be trustworthy of Hezbollah since it would have adopted positive and permanent neutrality and this would be recognized and guaranteed by the UN. It could only be strong since it is neutral and has a monopoly on Lebanese arms.

All the crises and conflicts that have arisen in Lebanon were and are the continuation or crystallization of crises and conflicts on a regional and international scale. The only framework that can immunize Lebanon and fully restore its sovereignty, freedom and independence today mortgaged with regional and international powers is neutrality. On the one hand, this neutrality would prevent Lebanon from plunging into regional and / or global conflicts and crises. On the other hand, it would prevent conflicts and internal crises from breaking out for regional and / or international reasons. It would thus strengthen the internal stability of Lebanon necessary for development and peace by protecting it from external interference. Finally, it would overcome the “Fear of the Other”, i.e. the other Lebanese partner. Neutrality would create a feeling of national and citizen belonging to the Lebanese on which would be born a real strong state preventing its territory from being the theater of conflicts and repeated crises paralyzing it.

Swiss neutrality is permanent and absolute. On the contrary, the positive and permanent neutrality of Lebanon recognized and guaranteed by the international community would not call into question either the support of Lebanon for the Armenian cause for the recognition of the genocide by the Ottomans or its support for the Palestinian cause in Palestine. The phrase “Lebanon is with the Arabs when they agree and neutral when they are not” means exclusively Lebanon’s support for the Palestinian cause provided the Palestinians respect its sovereignty by biding to the decisions of the Lebanese Parliament to cancel the Cairo agreement, that is to say by disarming themselves. Neither would this neutrality call into question Lebanon’s struggle, within its borders, against terrorism of any kind, and any possible inter-state cooperation in this context.

The political system is confessional (political confessionalism), personal status falls under the jurisdiction of sectarian courts (personal status federalism) and the country is multicultural (multiculturalism) but there is no state religion, law is not religious and religion is not the source of law. In fact, the state is based on civilian neutrality. The positive and permanent neutrality of Lebanon, recognized and guaranteed by the United Nations, is a logical consecration not only political, economic and diplomatic but also cultural, religious and civil. The next step could therefore be the adoption of a unified civil code of personal status because, thanks to neutrality, communities and citizens of any faith whatsoever would be no more afraid of the Other. It is then that religious and cultural diversity will really make Lebanon’s strength and wealth and no longer its weakness.

On these bases and by its nature, this positive and permanent neutrality, recognized and guaranteed internationally, would be able to reassure all Lebanese communities and factions, including Hezbollah. It would forge the unity of the Lebanese and build a truly strong state. It would not be sealed by an oral pact between leaders or parties that would end like that between Bechara el-Khoury and Riad Solh, but by a constitutional law and by a UN resolution. So let’s debate in a democratic, dispassionate and intelligent way!

Najib Fayad has approximately 35 years of experience in international strategy and development with various companies in Lebanon, France, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. He was awarded by French President Jacques Chirac (Prix de l’Audace créatrice, 2005). In addition, at the request of Bachir Gemayel who became President of Lebanon (1982), he transformed the Gamma Group into the first Lebanese think-tank. The Gamma Group planned the building of a modern and strong state in all of its sectors. It was like a “shadow government” composed of eighteen branches equivalent to eighteen ministries led by specialists. www.najibfayad.com



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