The French initiative towards Lebanon and the effort exerted by French President Emmanuel Macron deserve all appreciation for being the clearest initiative, especially following the efforts led by the French president, which were crowned by two visits — the first after the Beirut Port explosion, and the second early this month.
Macron’s second visit came to ensure that politicians and parties adhere to the required reform steps, which the Lebanese are demanding and the international community is insisting on, most important of which is that Lebanon distance itself from the political crises in the region.
Macron’s visits, and his initiative, mean that the French president has delved into the details, and as is said, “The devil is in the detail”. Among those Lebanese details is the controversy that revolved around the statements attributed to the French president after his meeting with a Hezbollah member, and the denials that followed.
However, this story, whatever its details, raises an important question, which is how will Paris deal with Hezbollah, as France cannot view the party as consisting of two wings — a military and a political wing — where one can distinguish between the two, as such a presumption is incorrect.
We say it is incorrect because it is a mistake some people in Europe made earlier, Britain being an example. However, this was rectified by classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, both in Britain and Germany.
Hezbollah is involved in assassinations in Lebanon, and it is also entangled in wars outside Lebanon, specifically in Syria, as a service for the Iranian regime.
The other matter here is that it is true that the French President started his Lebanon trip by visiting the iconic singer Fairouz in her home, and took pictures with her.
But that will not replace the image that is most firmly rooted in the minds of the people in Lebanon and the region, which is the landing of a French plane carrying Ayatollah Khomeini, in Iran in 1979, coming from France.
Khomeini’s image is still the most influencing, with the strongest impact and is the deepest-rooted, despite its occurrence a long time ago, compared to the picture of President Macron visiting Fairouz.
Therefore, it is not easy to simplify Lebanon’s crises. Here is an example of this. After Macron’s visit, he announced the first visit by Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, to Lebanon in 27 years. It is believed that within the schedule of the meetings are special arrangements with Hezbollah, and perhaps a meeting between Haniyeh and “Hassan Ammonia”.
This means that Hezbollah is not interested in disassociating itself from the crises in the region. The same applies to Lebanon, which cannot distance itself from the turmoil in the region. Is this the Lebanon for which France took its initiative, especially with the American rejection of any role for Hezbollah in the new government?
Accordingly, what can be said to the French is that the image of President Macron with Fairouz is beautiful and historic, but the region will not forget the image of Khomeini’s arrival on board the French plane, which requires a greater French effort in Lebanon to alter the image as a whole.