Lebanon’s New Government Shows Hizballah’s Dominance

Last week—nine months since the last Lebanese parliamentary elections—Prime Minister Saad Hariri formed a governing coalition. In accordance with Lebanese custom, cabinet seats are distributed among the country’s various religious groups, but the Iran-backed Shiite group Hizballah saw to it that even most non-Shiite ministers were its allies. Tony Badran explains:

Following its victory in the May 2018 parliamentary election, Hizballah . . . laid out its non-negotiable demands and immediately received Hariri’s acquiescence. Namely, Hizballah wanted to control the lucrative ministry of public health. . . . Then Hizballah proceeded to manage the shares of the other sects and parties. The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, gained seats in the election but Hizballah marginalized it in the government-formation process. . . . Hizballah thus made sure that the defense ministry went to one of its [Christian] allies, Elias Bou Saab. . . .

The government-formation process demonstrated clearly that Hizballah runs the entire political order, underscoring the reality that Lebanon and Hizballah are, in effect, synonymous.

U.S. policy should reflect this reality. It should abandon the fiction that by “strengthening state institutions” it somehow weakens Hizballah. Instead, the Trump administration should freeze all assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Moreover, U.S. law requires imposing sanctions on agencies and instrumentalities of foreign states that move money to Hizballah. Lebanon’s ministry of public health now fits this category. The U.S. should thus block international funds to the ministry. While the Lebanese will surely protest that the new minister is not technically a card-carrying member of Hizballah, there is no doubt as to whom he represents. There is similarly little doubt that Hizballah will staff the ministry. Washington must act accordingly.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians