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History, Recovery and Reconstruction

rump parliament, Maronites, Lebanese government, national recovery, peace talks

Although fighting ended, the Lebanese have not been left alone. Since the war, they have remained subject to 35,000 Syrian occupation troops, indirect political control by Syria, the continued presence of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, the operations of Hezbollah, and successive Israeli attacks—all of which hamper Lebanon’s postwar recovery. Political progress has continued, although under Syrian hegemony. In August and September 1990 the rump parliament (a legislature with only part of its former membership left) formally approved the constitutional changes called for in the Ta’if Agreement. Parliament’s membership was enlarged to 108, divided equally between Muslims and Christians, and the Second Republic emerged. Under pressure, the government accepted a “Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination” with Syria in May 1991.

In August and September 1992 the first parliamentary elections in 20 years were held but were boycotted by many Maronites, who objected to their reduced power under the new constitution. In October 1995 parliament reluctantly extended the term of President Hrawi for three years, believing the troika of Hrawi, Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Birri was essential to the national recovery. The second postwar parliamentary elections, in August and September 1996, confirmed support of the ruling troika, but the openness of the elections was questioned. Some Christians again boycotted the elections. In October 1998 parliament elected army commander Emile Lahoud to succeed Hrawi as president. In accordance with the constitution Lahoud consulted parliament to determine who would be the next prime minister. Al-Hariri, the choice of most members of parliament, withdrew his name from the running, citing a constitutional irregularity in the selection process. In December Lahoud named economist and veteran politician Salim al-Hoss as prime minister. Al-Hoss had previously served as prime minister from 1976 to 1980 and from 1987 to 1990.

In the mid-1990s most domestic factions appeared to be living peacefully with each other, but Hezbollah continued attacks on Israel in the self-declared Israeli security zone and occasionally in Israel proper. Israeli reprisal raids, usually by air, were especially severe in 1993 and 1995. In April 1996 Israel began two weeks of the heaviest bombing in Lebanon since 1982. After 103 civilians were killed in a refugee camp, Israel suffered heavy international criticism and ended the operation. Attacks and reprisals continued in the following years. In 1998 Israel offered to withdraw from the security zone if Lebanon would guarantee that the area would not be used for attacks on Israel. The Lebanese government rejected the offer, calling instead for an unconditional withdrawal and maintaining that no security guarantee would be provided without a comprehensive peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon and Syria.

In Beirut, reconstruction proceeded at a pace unmatched since European cities were rebuilt after World War II. Dramatic archaeological ruins and artifacts, once covered by Beirut’s central district, were excavated and displayed.

Israel and Syria resumed peace talks in December 1999 for the first time since 1996, but the talks broke down the next month. Exasperated by the breakdown, the Israeli government announced that it would withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon by July 2000. The Lebanese government again declared that it would not provide Israel any security guarantee without a comprehensive peace treaty. In June 2001, in response to Lebanese protests about the strength of its involvement in Lebanese affairs, Syria withdrew its troops from Beirut and the surrounding area.

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