As the PLO's forces begin to depart from Beirut, Lebanese politics stirs anew.
Today, the parliament is scheduled to vote for a new president -- according to
Lebanon's traditional and delicate religious balance the post is reserved for a Christian. The single announced candidate is Bashir Gemayel, 34, who heads his own political party, the Phalange, and his own private militia. Here, Mr. Gemayel expounds his vision of the future of Lebanon.
Lebanon, a country that has occupied much space in the international and American press recently, holds its presidential election today. Few people seem to have paid much attention to the future of our small country, concerning themselves solely with its present. As a candidate for the presidency, however, I have devoted substantial consideration to my country's future, and I should like to share these ideas with the American people.
Much of the press seems to see Lebanon in terms of its parts, like a permanently divided political entity. It is certainly true that the Lebanese people is formed of diverse social and cultural stocks. But it is not true that we are internally divided. Indeed, despite divisions imposed by the occupation of Lebanon by three foreign forces, in some ways, in many ways really, the people of Lebanon are united as never before -- united in our determination to recover and safeguard our sovereignty, united in our opposition to the use of violence in our country to resolve others' problems, united in our demand to return to our own historic traditions of democracy, pluralism, and moderation.
What many outside Lebanon do not appreciate is how much the Lebanese -- all Lebanese in all religious, ethnic, social and economic groups -- have learned from more than seven tragic years of violence. What we learned first and foremost, frankly, was that we had taken Lebanon and its way of life for granted. All of us know today -- and what a price we paid for this knowledge -- that we can no longer allow others to drag us into their quarrels. And we know, too, that we ourselves must take conscious, tangible and effective steps to restore the unique experience that is Lebanon's historic way of life.
Lebanon is a country of minorities. No single group can claim majority status for itself. Yet, the next president of Lebanon will not be a minority president, because all the many groups that make up our small but culturally rich country and have contributed to its unique traditions treasure the Lebanese way of life and Lebanon. This nation of minorities has, as few other countries in the developing world have, a majority political culture.
Should I be elected president, my program will recognize that highest priority must be given to the healing of wounds caused by the painful years of conflict. At the same time, one of the most effective ways of healing wounds over the long term is to revitalize the institutions of Lebanese democracy. We must ensure the continued security and liberty for the diverse cultural communities of Lebanon, defining equitably the rights and the obligations of citizens based on the unique characteristics of our country, our values and our customs. The people of Lebanon have always known, and the history of our country has been founded on the belief, that a thriving democracy is the best way for each community and, in fact, each individual to realize his potential and pursue his dreams.
At the same time, any Lebanese president must recognize that much of our national territory is still occupied by Israel, Syria and the PLO. Certainly, it is imperative that this tripartite occupation, the legacy of earlier attempts to partition Lebanon, must be terminated. If Syria considers the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon a Syrian security zone, then of course Israel will treat the south as an Israeli security zone. The Bekaa is at once on the frontiers of both countries. Should this valley be included in the security strategy of either, it will in fact become less secure for both. Re-Lebanization of the north, the east and the south of Lebanon is the best guarantee for all parties and is certainly the only principle congruent with the unity and sovereignty of Lebanon. As long as Lebanon is not stabilized, its land not completely liberated from foreign occupiers, its territory still used by some to threaten others, a regional settlement will remain impossible to achieve. We assert that a strong, independent and prosperous Lebanon is undoubtedly the best security guarantee for all.
As our internal society must return to its traditional pluralism, so our regional relations must also assume a character befitting relations between sovereign countries. For too long have the neighbors of Lebanon and the other regional powers treated our country as a playground for their games of intrigue and violence. Too long have we permitted seditious behavior directly funded by other governments who send men, weapons, and money in our midst. We look forward to a new era now in which we will treat with other countries in the region as our friends and neighbors -- but on the firm basis of sovereign equality.
Lebanon's international role must certainly be reasserted. We have always seen ourselves as a cultural and commercial crossroads of East and West. We value the Western traditions of democracy and free enterprise, we reject totalitarian ideologies wherever promulgated. At the same time we also value the cultural traditions and holism of the East, and try not to lose sight of the interrelationship between values and actions.
The West in general, and the United States (as the leader of the free world) in particular, have significant interests in the Middle East. At the same time, the Middle East has a great interest in a regional American presence, and in the maintenance of cooperative and interdependent relations with the United States. Lebanon used to maintain an active role as a friend and interlocutor of both the Arab moderates, on the one hand, and the West, on the other. Following its total liberation, Lebanon should be prepared to resume that role which has been sorely missed in recent years.
Therefore, the new Lebanon, given another chance to pursue its destiny by the admirable and tireless efforts of Ambassador Philip Habib and the United States as a whole, must follow several fundamental principles in the days ahead:
First:Any solution to the Lebanese crisis must be based on recovery of Lebanese sovereignty over the entirety of the national territory and the restoration to the Lebanese state of its full powers.
Second: Israeli and Syrian forces must return to their own countries. Within the framework of Lebanese sovereignty there must be a Lebanese army strong enough to preserve the territorial integrity of our nation and thereby reassure and undergird the security of Israel and Syria.
Third: The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remaining in Lebanon must submit to and respect the authority of the Lebanese government in Lebanon. There must be a transformation of Lebanese-Palestinian relations that reflects both the historic relationship of the two peoples and the transitory character of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon.
Fourth, most important, and most widely recognized, the people of Lebanon must agree that force has no place in the inevitable disagreements that arise within any country. Lebanese pluralism, which has tended in its self-assuredness to overlook occasional resort to violence, must evolve to place a new emphasis on the peaceful settlement of disputes. At the same time, the character of that pluralism must remain based upon the unity of Lebanon; the uniqueness of the Lebanese experience; and liberty, security, and justice for all Lebanese within a democratic government that guarantees all citizens' basic freedom.