A war of words erupted Monday between President Michel Aoun’s aide Salim Jreissati and PM-designate Saad Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement.
In a statement, Jreissati described Hariri’s remarks about “stopping the counting” of Christians and Muslims in the country as “very dangerous.”
Hariri had on Sunday reminded of remarks voiced in the past by his slain father ex-PM Rafik Hariri.
“We have stopped counting and Christians are half of the state, regardless of the numbers,” Hariri quoted his father as saying. “And until today, we have been repeating: we have stopped the counting. The accusation of infringing on the rights of Christians cannot be thrown at Saad Rafik Hariri,” the PM-designate added.
Jreissati snapped back on Monday, telling Hariri: “To the PM-designate I say no and one thousand no’s. Neither you nor anyone else are the ones who stopped or are stopping the counting, seeing as such a guarantee comes from the National Pact and the constitution.”
“This formula found its roots in 1920 when the State of Greater Lebanon was established and was later enshrined in the 1926 constitution, after independence in 1943 and in the Taef Accord, which stipulated equal power-sharing,” the ex-minister added.
“No one has the right to claim to Christians that he is their guarantee and the guarantee of their presence and role in Lebanon,” Jreissati went on to say.
He added that “the real guarantee for our coexistence lies in Article 95 of the Constitution, which is the abolition of sectarianism and not only political sectarianism,” in an apparent reference to civil marriage and other controversial issues related to personal status laws.
“This pushes me to raise the obvious question: are you ready for it and capable of doing it?” Jreissati asked Hariri, suggesting that moving towards the secularization of personal status laws will draw a backlash from Muslim religious and political leaders and segments of the population.
Mustaqbal Web, the news portal of Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement, later hit back at Jreissati, calling him “the constitutional mufti of General Michel Aoun’s tenure and the political provocateur since the days of Syrian tutelage.”
“He was annoyed because PM-designate Hariri emphasized the principle of equal power-sharing between Muslims and Christians and reiterated the slogan launched by his father,” the news portal said.
“Jreissati’s dismay stands for President Michel Aoun’s dismay, Aoun’s dismay stands for Jebran Bassil’s dismay, and Bassil’s dismay stems from Hariri’s success in impeding his scheme to move the clash over the government from the political square to the arena of sectarian incitement,” Mustaqbal Web added.
Jreissati later responded, accusing Mustaqbal of naturalizing scores of people for sectarian reasons and blocking a volitional civil marriage draft law approved by Cabinet.