In a September 9, 2022 interview with the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Samy Al-Gemayel, the president of Lebanon's Kataeb (Phalanges) Party, known as an opponent of Hizbullah, stressed that the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon are of crucial importance for the country's future. He expressed concern that an ally of Hizbullah will once again be elected for president, as happened in 2016 with the election of Michel 'Aoun, and warned that, if this happens, Lebanon will pay the price for years. He called on all the opposition forces in the country to unite and reach understandings in order to prevent this from happening.
Stating that Hizbullah's weapons are Lebanon's most fundamental problem, Al-Gemayel also urged the Lebanese to stop putting off the discussion and handling of this issue. Hizbullah, he said, is responsible for Lebanon's collapse, because it is guided by external considerations that have nothing to do with Lebanon and causes the country to be isolated from its Arab and global surroundings. He called on Hizbullah to decide whether it is a Lebanese organization or a foreign one, but expressed doubt about its ability "to place Lebanon's interests above Iran's."
Hizbullah, Al-Gemayel added, controls Lebanon, to the detriment of the Lebanese people. In fact, it controls even in the negotiations with Israel on the maritime border between the countries, which is further proof that Lebanon's legitimate state institutions no longer govern the country. He concluded by declaring that his party is no longer willing "to remain hostage to Hizbullah."
Samy Al-Gemayel (Source:akhbaralyawm.com, February 24, 2022)
The following are excerpts from the interview.
The Presidential Election Is Critical; The Opposition Must Unite To Keep Hizbullah From Imposing Its Candidate Again
"Samy Al-Gemayel, the president of Lebanon's Kataeb Party, did not hide his concern that the [Lebanese] opposition would fail to unite its ranks in the 'fateful' presidential election campaign, and that some opposition forces would opt for a settlement with Hizbullah, forcing Lebanon to bear this burden for another six years, which is the length of the president's term in office. In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Gemayel said that the ability to agree on a single [candidate for] president of the republic 'depends on the ability of the opposition, [including all of its] groups and MPs, to transcend personal interests and narrow considerations and agree on a single strategy for handling this campaign. That is the main thing, as far as I am concerned,' he added. 'The important point is not the [candidates'] names but agreeing on a single strategy. The names will follow from this agreement and this strategy. We must keep talking in order to formulate a strategy and then agree on names… There are now contacts with all the groups that regard themselves part of the opposition: independent MPs, the Forces of Change [group], [Samir Geagea's] Lebanese Forces [party], [Walid Jumblatt's] Progressive Socialist party and even the new bloc that includes Sunni MPs. We are trying to consult with all of them about the best strategy to take. As far as we are concerned, it will be possible to unite the opposition in this campaign if we transcend personal interests and partisan considerations.'"
Hizbullah Forced Us To Accept 'Aoun As President, And The Result Was The Collapse And Isolation Of Lebanon
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"Denying that there are disagreements within the opposition regarding the criteria [that its presidential candidate] must meet, Al-Gemayel said: 'The important thing is to have a strategy for waging this campaign. As for the criteria our presidential candidate must meet, I think we all agree on them. The president must be committed to the sovereignty of this state. He must be a reformist capable of action, who can unite all the Lebanese people and ensure Lebanon's sovereignty… I believe that for the last 17 years Hizbullah has been waging an open war to take over the country. In 2016 it managed to force its presidential candidate ['Aoun] on us, and to impose an arrangement that the majority of political forces accepted, although we did not. This led to the general collapse of the country, and to its destruction on the economic, social, healthcare, educational and all other levels. The question is, will we continue on this path? Can Lebanon afford to let Hizbullah appoint the president for another six years? Can the Lebanese withstand this? Can we accept [a situation whereby] Lebanon remains isolated from its Arab and international surroundings, not only politically but also in terms of economy, tourism, trade and every other aspect? Can Lebanon and the Lebanese accept the appointment of a president whose red lines are dictated [by Hizbullah] and who is prohibited from doing certain things: delineating the borders, enacting reforms, ensuring security and [having] the Lebanese armed forces assume control of [all] the Lebanese territory? Will we continue to follow this rationale for another six years?'
"Al-Gemayel stressed that we have 'a real opportunity [to win the election], but reiterated that attaining this objective requires fully uniting the ranks… He added: 'The question that the other [opposition forces] must now answer is whether each of them will continue to try to differentiate itself from the others or to beat the others to the leadership of the opposition. Because that kind of thinking will get us nowhere…'
"Al-Gemayel stressed that the presidential [election] is important 'because the campaign we are currently waging is not just one passing campaign. We will bear its consequences for the next six years… Previous years have demonstrated how important the role of president is in this country, despite the claim that, since the Taif Agreement, the president has no [real] powers. This turns out to be false, because the president has a significant and fundamental role that can affect all the [power] balances in the state, including within the government. Assuming that the country is divided equally between two [rival] camps, the president's camp is the one that can steer the country in this direction or that…'"
Our Most Fundamental Problem Is Hizbullah's Weapons; We Must Stop Putting Off Addressing This Issue
"Al-Gemayel added: 'The Lebanese people is tired of living in a state of instability and temporary [solutions]. We have a problem in this country, and instead of solving it we keep dragging our feet and putting it off. We have not found the courage to resolve all the problems.' The time has come, he said, for Lebanon, the Lebanese people and the state officials to tackle the problems. 'We have a basic problem called Hizbullah's weapons. Let us tackle it and stop this foot-dragging. Let's put this issue on the table and discuss it. Perhaps we will find a solution and perhaps not, but in any case we must reach some conclusions.'
"As for the question of whether Hizbullah's decisions are taken locally, [namely] whether it can take a decision to resolve [the issue of its weapons], Al-Gemayel said: 'That is up to Hizbullah. If it believes that the decision is not in its hands [but rather in the hands of Iran], we do not have to sit with it or be subordinate to it. We are not obliged to allow it to influence [Lebanon's] political life, because its influence is foreign influence. The issue is up to Hizbullah. If it replies that the decision is indeed in its own hands, we will sit with it, and it will have to take decisions that benefit the country. If the decision is not up to Hizbullah, then it is we, rather than Hizbullah, who have a problem: we have a problem being part of the government, the [state] institutions, the parliament and the presidential election along with an element whose decision-making is not in its own hands.'"
I Doubt Hizbullah Is Able To Place Lebanon's Interests Before Iran's
"[Al-Gemayel went on to say:] 'There is a structural problem here. Until now we wanted to regard Hizbullah as a party whose members are Lebanese and which has a representation in parliament and presence in [various state] institutions. [But] I think there is considerable doubt regarding Hizbullah's ability to place Lebanon's interests before those of Iran. We are very skeptical of this.
"We must confront Hizbullah specifically about its responsibility in this context. We hereby address it and say: Hizbullah, your country is falling to pieces. What is your position on this? Are you willing to see it collapse just because you are guided by interests that have nothing to do with Lebanon and, as a result, are steering Lebanon in a different direction, bringing it into the resistance axis, creating hostility between it and the Arab countries, isolating it from the international community and undermining its [ability to] export to the Arab world? And this, when you know that the majority of Lebanese export is to Arab countries and that it has gone down by 80%.
"'Who is sending captagon shipments [to the Gulf]? Who is supporting the Houthis in Yemen and is involved so directly in attacks on the Arab kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Who curses Arab leaders from Lebanese soil every day? Who welcomes the [Iran-backed] Bahraini opposition? It is Hizbullah that does [all these things], and the Lebanese state is subordinate to its will. That is why all the Lebanese are paying the price by suffering the [current] reality.'"
Hizbullah Is The Decision-Maker In Lebanon
"Expressing puzzlement at Hizbullah's threats that war may break out if the talks for delineating [Lebanon's maritime border with Israel] fail, Al-Gemayel said… 'Taking this decision [about the border] is the exclusive prerogative of the state and of the Lebanese people by means of their legitimate institutions. The problem is that this is not the case today, [because] Hizbullah is the one who decides. Hizbullah decides when to start the negotiations and when to stop them. Proof of this is the fact that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who effectively serves as Hizbullah's public face, is the one who initiated [the talks] with the Americans about the issue of delineating the border. How is the parliament speaker connected to the drawing of the border…? What article in the Lebanese constitution authorizes the parliament speaker to discuss this issue with anyone in the world? The only title [that allows him to do so] is that of Hizbullah spokesperson. The Americans cannot negotiate [directly] with Hizbullah, so they negotiate instead with its political spokesperson, namely Berri. This is proof that, as far as the international community is concerned, it is [Hizbullah] that controls Lebanon, rather than the president, because nobody is talking with the president [about the border issue] and it was not the president who launched the negotiations. This is resounding proof that it is not the state institutions that take decisions in Lebanon: not the president, who, according to the constitution, is in charge of Lebanon's foreign relations, nor the prime minister, who is the head of the executive branch. Rather, it is Hizbullah that performs this role. We in the Kataeb [Party] are unwilling to remain hostage to Hizbullah in Lebanon. We refuse to let Lebanon remain hostage to Hizbullah's decisions and choices, which have nothing to do with this country…'
"If the attempt to transform Hizbullah into a Lebanese [organization] fails, Al-Gemayel believes that the solution depends on whether his fellow oppositionists are willing to end this campaign with another [intra-Lebanese] arrangement and another capitulation to Hizbullah, or will face reality. 'We are experienced at this, [he says]… We waged such as a campaign [in the past], but then we suddenly looked around and found ourselves alone, while all the other [political forces] reached a settlement with Hizbullah by selecting [Michel] 'Aoun as president. Will we make this mistake again? That is the question. We [in the Kataeb Party] have already proved that we do not stray [from the path,] and now the others must prove this as well.'"
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 9, 2022.
 On Hizbullah's smuggling of drugs, including captagon, to the Gulf, see MEMRI reports: Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 1573 – Saudi And Lebanese Accusations: Hizbullah Is Operating A Network For Smuggling Drugs To Saudi Arabia And The Region; It Has Turned Lebanon Into A Base For Exporting Drugs And Terrorism, April 28, 2021; Special Dispatch No. 9450 - Saudi Journalist: Why Does The World Keep Silent Over Hizbullah's Drug Trafficking And Money Laundering Activities? – July 19, 2021.