Nawaf Salam, idlas “mirage” or number “over March 14”?

He does not live in Lebanon and he has not yet officially stated that he is a candidate for the position of Prime Minister. In every parliamentary consultation since 2019, his name has come back to the forefront of the Lebanese political scene. Nawaf Salam sometimes looks like a mirage. Like a distant hope, where March 14 and October 17 managed to hold on, that it didn’t appear.

The one who preferred not to run for the last legislative election, after hesitating for a long time, got 24 votes yesterday against 54 for outgoing Prime Minister Nagib Mikati. “He is the man of today par excellence”, says an old Lebanese political baron. The “man of time”? Not for everyone. The former diplomat was not unanimous in the ranks of all those who claimed to be from the opposition, such as the Lebanese Forces, independent deputies and those in protest (including 10 of the 13 members who nonetheless voted for him).

Accused by some protesting representatives belonging to Fouad Siniora’s camp – a controversial figure in the eyes of many reformists who were with Nawaf Salam despite refusing to ally with himself during the legislative elections in 2022 – then avoided by the Lebanese Forces saying they did not. Knowing his political program, Nawaf Salam will eventually be allowed to “rumors”, but also for failing to honor the “public relations” practices that anyone seeking to Lebanese politics. “Samir Geagea has never shied away from the fact that he did not visit him to thank him for teaching him for the first time (in 2019), when he would quickly go to Fouad Siniora or Walid Joumblatt”, commented a politician on the condition not to identify.

“As for his program, it is enough to read the tens of thousands of pages written in Lebanon and the reforms he has initiated to resonate with the flesh of his thinking and his program,” stated a friend of Mr. Salam. The judge of the International Court of Justice is in fact far from being a complete stranger. With a good experience on an international scale, however, it was not careerism that guided his career, academically and professionally. He was touched “by his love of the country and his city Beirut” from which he came as well as by the constant desire to see the phoenix that Lebanon is destined to be reborn from its ashes. “He’s a fan of reading, he’s not someone who follows the stock market,” said PSP president Walid Jumblatt, a longtime friend.

“He’s not the same as the dinosaurs in politics and in racketeering where they’re exhausted,” he said.

Contacted by L’Orient-Le Jour, Mr. Salam could not be contacted yesterday.


Although he came from a family of nobles – his grandfather, Sélim Salam, was a member of the Ottoman Parliament in 1912, his uncle, Saëb Salam, considered one of the fathers of the country’s independence, was Prime Minister four times between 1952 and 1973 and his cousin, Tammam Salam, Prime Minister from 2014 to 2016 – in the left -wing circles he immersed himself in his university years. Years were spent abroad where he earned a series of doctorates in political science, history and social science in Paris, before continuing to study law in the United States where he was admitted to Harvard. Like students of his generation, he was actively involved in the pro-Palestinian struggle. A case he will continue to defend, along with Lebanon’s sovereignty, within the UN.

If he remains today a great defender of the rights of Palestinians and hides from his subjection the left predisposition to social justice and a critical spirit, he has acquired, in the course of his international experiences, the pragmatism. “His view is no longer the same as the old revolutions and struggles. He knows the limits of the ambitions of the left well, ”commented Ziad Majed, academic and researcher, who knows him well.

Since supporting a reformist vision that he has rejected in numerous books and essays on the rebuilding of the Lebanese state, electoral code reform and the freedom of justice, he has ended up creating a central approach. His intellectual contribution but also his involvement in many civic actions was primarily motivated by his desire to “deal with a rotten system ruled by confessional considerations and Syrian hegemony in the 1990s” , added Mr. Majed.

Although filled with a culture of resistance against Israel, understood in its national spirit, Nawaf Salam still defended the need to re-establish Lebanese State sovereignty over the entire territory. The problem of Hezbollah’s weapons can only, according to him, be solved within the framework of a defense strategy, determined Mr. Majed.

“The right political reaction”

In addition to his duties as Lebanon’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York (2007 to 2017), Nawaf Salam chaired the Security Council in May 2010 and September 2011 when Lebanon was elected as its non -permanent member. body for a period of two years, an extremely prestigious position that he was the only Lebanese with Fouad Ammoun, another renowned jurist, to hold. In November 2017, he was elected by a majority of UN votes as a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for a ten -year term.

His ten years at the UN gave him unconditional respect in diplomatic circles “even by ambassadors who disagreed with him”, recalls journalist Gisèle Khoury who knew him as a close friend. of her husband, Samir Kassir, writer and journalist, was killed in June 2005 in a car bomb attack. Nawaf Salam was the architect of the “dissociation” policy from Syria in 2012, concerned with ensuring Lebanon’s protection from the war that was devastating the neighboring country. His mandate within the international organization was distinguished by numerous interventions in favor of resolution 1701. A text that has since made it possible to strengthen the region and prevent the continuation of hostilities. “She has always had the right political reaction to the big moments that marked the history of Lebanon”, Ms. continued. Khoury. With enthusiasm he will work to end impunity by setting up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the case of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who may deserve to be designated an enemy of Hezbollah, who fears his relationship with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the architect of the STL. The latter Mr. Salam is indebted to his appointment in 2007 as ambassador to the UN. His long -standing relationship with the former head of government “that he maintains relations like other Lebanese political men”, Ziad Majed’s defense, could hurt him ahead of parliamentary consultations.

Neither zaïm nor the exalted revolutionary, the one who is now “March 14” for some, “very pro-Palestinian” for others, is finally as ready to take on the role. But without following the practices of Lebanese-style compromise. This immediately removed him from the game for a term called to continue the practice of sharing influence within the executive.

He does not live in Lebanon and he has not yet officially stated that he is a candidate for the position of Prime Minister. In every parliamentary consultation since 2019, his name has come back to the forefront of the Lebanese political scene. Nawaf Salam sometimes looks like a mirage. Like a distant hope, where March 14 and October 17 managed to hold, that it didn’t become …

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