Lebanon’s parliament on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to approve a national unity government, which includes representatives of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
Lawmakers voted 87 in favor, four against and one abstention, to approve Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri’s cabinet. He had presented the 30-member cabinet earlier this month, having been asked to form a government by President Michel Aoun, who was elected several weeks previously.
Under long-standing agreements, Lebanon’s positions of power are divided to reflect the country’s complex ethnic mix – the president must be a Maronite Christian, its Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and parliament’s speaker a Shi’ite Muslim.
Hariri’s government also incorporates a wide cross-section of Lebanon’s political and ethnic spectrum, including two members of Hezbollah, the Shi’ite group classified a terror organisation by the United States. Hezbollah’s military wing appears on the European Union and British list of terror organisations.
On taking office earlier this month, Hariri pledged to “preserve our country from the negative consequences of the Syrian crisis.” Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and continues to fight alongside his forces in Syria’s bloody civil war.
During the month-long Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah fired around 4,000 rockets at northern Israel, killing 43 Israeli civilians. It is estimated that Hezbollah now has an arsenal of around 100,000 rockets at its disposal with a range covering all of Israel. Israeli military officials also recently estimated that there are around 10,000 Hezbollah positions, including infrastructure and armaments, placed within around 200 villages and towns along the Israeli border.
Hezbollah’s inclusion within Hariri’s cabinet will likely strengthen Israel’s assertion that in any future conflict with Hezbollah, Lebanon’s government will be held responsible. As far back as 2014, Israeli ministers warned that Lebanon’s government has a duty to prevent attacks from its territory.
On taking office in November, President Aoun pledged to “release what is left of our lands from the Israeli occupation.” Despite the UN-verified Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah claims that land it calls the Sheba Farms, known in Israel as Har Dov, is Lebanese territory.
[Photo: BICOM ]