Almost two years after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by a truck bomb in the streets of Beirut, it seems that the fragile balance between the many political factions and ethnic groups in Lebanon is once again on the brink of collapse as yet another anti-Syrian politician in Lebanon is murdered.
The assassination on Tuesday of outspoken Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel by gunmen in Beirut has prompted fears in many around the world and in Israel for the prospect of renewed violence within Lebanese factions and a weakening of the Siniora government
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the assassination of Gemayel emphasizes what area we are living in and where there is tension between modernity and extremism. “During the war, we tried to attack only Hizballah, and not the Lebanese government which has a common goal with us – that Lebanon will be a normal country which protects its borders. On the other hand we have Hizballah which does not reflect the Lebanese interests, but only those of Iran,” Livni said in a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.
Livni added that even if it is too early to determine that Syria is behind the murder, the negative influence Syria holds over Lebanon is known and familiar. “Syria is still able to control what is happening inside Lebanon.”
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and expressed his hopes that the assassination of Gemayel in Beirut will not undermine stability in the region. Olmert also updated Prodi on the talks with Palestinian President Abbas, but said that the European initiatives for peace only disturb the process.
Infrastructure Minister Benyamin Ben-Eliezer estimated that the assassination of Gemayel is only the beginning. “The Syrians are continuing to orchestrate the assassinations. Whoever thinks that there will be quiet there is wrong and we are facing a new tragedy in Lebanon,” he said.