Lebanese PM Hariri denounces Hezbollah criticism

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019

Lebanese PM Hariri denounces Hezbollah criticism

  • Beirut's relations with Arab countries are not subject to the whims of some parties, he said

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has given his view on a number of recent controversies, including the Tripoli terrorist attack and attitudes toward refugees from neighboring Syria, which have shaken the settlement between him and the President Michel Aoun.

He also denounced criticism of Lebanon’s position at the recent Makkah summit of Arab leaders, particularly the statement made by Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, noting that “Lebanon cannot be run by slips of tongues and hiccups.”

“Anger among Sunnis cannot be considered non-existent; it is a reality and it is the result of positions taken by key partners,” Hariri said.

“Lebanon’s relations with Arab countries are not subject to the whims of some (parties),” he added, stressing that “the first line of the constitution states that Lebanon is an Arab country, so it is worth noting that when a prime minister delivers a speech, he does so on behalf of Lebanon.

“I went to the Makkah summit and agreed to its decisions in the name of Lebanon. My position and speech at the summit go in line with the ministerial statement. The ones that think otherwise should go back to the decisions of previous summits and see who is truly violating the principle of disassociation.

“We should not put Arab countries and Saudi Arabia in a position of rivalry with Lebanon. It about time that we understand that the interests of the country should come before our personal and political interests and our loyalty to Lebanon should always come first.”

Hariri also addressed the controversy that arose at the weekend involving the Free Patriotic Movement, after it released a video in support of a campaign encouraging businesses to hire Lebanese nationals rather than foreigners, sparking allegations of racism. Subsequent comments on Twitter by party leader, and Lebanon’s foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, provoked further criticism.

“I was very upset with the words (from the party’s) head, (Foreign) Minister Gebran Bassil,” said Hariri. “I wish the negation came immediately because the repercussions were very bad and they put us in an unacceptable position.

Hariri also criticized the decision by a court in May to acquit Lt. Col. Suzanne Hajj, who was charged with fabricating evidence against actor Ziad Itani, who was falsely accused of spying for Israel.

“It is unacceptable that a certain judge does what he pleases,” said Hariri. “There has been an interference in the judiciary. Nobody should cover for the mistake and I will not keep silent in this regard. The government made a mistake.”

Hariri then talked about terrorist Abdul Rahman Mabsout, who shot and killed two police officers and two soldiers last week during attacks on a bank, a police station and an army vehicle before blowing himself up. He had been detained after returning to Lebanon from Syria in 2016 but released the following year.

“Imprisoning him for a year and a half was not wrong; what was wrong is not properly monitoring him after his release,” said Hariri.

Finally, as debates continue regarding the 2019 draft budget, Hariri asked those blocking it: “Do you want the outcome of the Cedar Conference or not? Do you want McKinsey’s plan or not? Do you want our Arab brothers to come back or not?”

International donors pledged about $11 billion to Lebanon during the Cedar Conference in Paris in April last year, in return for which Hariri vowed to cut the country’s budget deficit. In July, global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. published a 1000-page report setting out its vision for Lebanon’s economy, with a view to unlocking that international investment.

Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

Updated 18 August 2019

Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

  • Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel

RAMALLAH: Relatives of a US congresswoman say they support her decision to decline Israel’s offer allowing her to visit them in the West Bank because the “right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions.”

Rashida Tlaib said she would not see her family, even after Israel lifted a ban on her entry, because the government had imposed restrictions on her trip.

“We totally understand her position and support her in her efforts. The right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions,” her uncle Bassam Tlaib told Arab News.

He was speaking from the family home in Beit Ur Al-Fuka, which is 3 km from the West Bank city of Ramallah, and was flanked by his elderly mother.

He said his niece had visited them many times in the past, but there had never been any conditions attached to her travel.

“She said we will meet when she can come without conditions,” Tlaib said. “One idea has been floated of flying the grandmother to the US or finding a way to have the two meetings in a third country. You know my mother is nearing 90 and it is not easy for her to travel but we are checking out all options.”

Tlaib, a Democrat, has criticized Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and had planned to make an official visit to the country.

Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel, local media reported.

But the congresswoman, who is Palestinian-American, lashed out on social media.

“I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” she tweeted, using the word sity to refer to her grandmother. “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

The NGO hosting and organizing the trip, Miftah, has been criticized by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Hanan Ashrawi, the NGO’s founder, said her staff had organized other congressional trips. “This was the third trip we have organized, and we try to do our work professionally and seriously,” Ashrawi told Arab News. “Our very mission is to promote global dialogue and democracy.”

Ashrawi said the attacks on Miftah were unwarranted.  “Miftah has been targeted with the expressed goal of trying to discredit us even though our record is clear. We believe that they are trying to keep organizing congressional delegations within the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) monopoly, while we are trying to provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about Palestinian life under occupation and to understand the Palestinian narrative by providing opportunities for delegations to see and engage with Palestinians of all walks of life.” 

Ashrawi said Miftah had been “vetted” by the US Congress’ ethics committee. “We might not be able to bring hundreds of congress people like AIPAC, but we can bring a few and have them see, hear and interact with Palestinians.”

US President Donald Trump had called on Israel not to allow Tlaib and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar into Israel as admitting the two “would show great weakness.”

He tweeted that the pair “hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace.”