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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Beginning of the End for Lebanon? Part 6 - Pierre Gemayel

I've been in the Tel Aviv area in meetings all day.

This evening, on the way home, I heard of the assassination in Lebanon of Pierre Gemayel.

My first thoughts were of his father and uncle, Amin and Bashir Gemayel. Amin served as President of Lebanon from 1982-88 after his brother Bashir was assassinated. I remember Bashir's brief stint in the Presidency quite well:
In 1971, he was appointed inspector in the para-military branch of the Kataeb party, the Kataeb Regular Forces. In 1971 he also took another law qualification from the American and International Law Academy in Dallas, Texas. Qualifying in 1972 he joined the bar association and opened an office in West Beirut. However, outside of his legal work in 1974, he founded the "BG squad", a Lebanese militia, to face PLO aggression against Lebanese Christians. In 1976, he became president of the Kataeb Military Council and formed the Unified Lebanese Forces to combat Syrian advances into Lebanese territory. In 1978 he successfully led the "Hundred Days War" against Syrian forces to liberate Christian areas from the illegal presence of Syrian troops. Gemayel became a member of the Lebanese Front in 1980 and in 1981 he led the unified Christian Lebanese militias in the Battle of Zahleh. In his military campaigns, Gemayel secretly accepted military supplies from Israel, and is widely believed, to have accepted Israeli training for his troops.
Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1982. Although Gemayel did not cooperate with the Israelis publicly, his long history of tactical collaboration with Israel counted against him in the eyes of many Lebanese, especially Muslims. Although the only announced candidate for the presidency of the republic, the National Assembly elected him by the second narrowest margin in Lebanese history (57 votes out of 92) on August 23, 1982; most Muslim members of the Assembly boycotted the vote. Nine days before he was due to take office, Gemayel was assassinated along with twenty-five others in an explosion at the Kataeb headquarters in Achrafieh on September 14, 1982.

After his death Israeli army reoccupied West Beirut and Maronite militias carried out Sabra and Shatila massacres.
Bashir Gemayel's assassination was the end of cooperation between Israel and Lebanon. Amin was not strong enough to continue it (he was a much weaker personality), and Sabra and Shatilla slammed the door shut. A pity because there is so much on which Israel could cooperate with the anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon. That assassination haunts us to this day. This one may well do the same.


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