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Hobeika fires back at ‘too young’ Gemayel for ‘twisting facts’

 Friday, September 07, 2001 

The former minister and militia commander Elie Hobeika on Thursday was quick to fire back at Metn MP Pierre Gemayel after the latter had warned him to stay out of Phalange party politics. 
Hobeika said that Gemayel was “forgiven” since the past events he had referred to happened before the Metn MP could have witnessed them. 
“He was too young to remember, and whoever told him what happened purposely gave him a twisted version,” he said, referring to the MP’s father, former president Amin Gemayel. 
The former militia leader went on to accuse the Gemayels of using divisive issues to hide their own failures. 
“Father and son alike don’t seem to care if attacks against their opponents create frictions within the Christian faction,” said Hobeika, who is trying to reenter the mainstream political life. 
Hobeika’s comments come in the latest round in bout of accusations and counter attacks between two sides competing for influence in the hard line Christian nationalist Phalange party. 
Hobeika had sided with Phalange party leader Mounir Hajj against Gemayel senior at the beginning of the week by accusing the former president of creating divisions within the party. 
The younger Gemayel responded with a bitter attack on Hobeika Wednesday, telling him to stay out of the affairs of the Phalange party, which had “shut its doors on Hobeika” long ago. 
Hobeika proposes televised debate
The former Lebanese Forces commander dared Gemayel and those behind him “whether a president or an individual to a televised confrontation at the next available opportunity instead of hiding behind statements.” 
“Let this be a debate where all cards are laid open on the table and every thing brought out in public,” Hobeika said. 
Buy the Metn MP dismissed the challenge immediately. 
“We would like to remind Hobeika that the condition for any debate between two persons is that they should be active individuals in the political scene<" said Gemayel. "He belongs to the painful past that we have turned a page on.” 
“We advise him to prepare his files for a debate somewhere else,” added Gemayel, referring to the possibility of Hobeika being summoned in a Belgian case against Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon that is looking into the Sabra and Shatila camp massacres. 
Hobeika is widely believed to have played a key role in the Lebanese Forces participation in the 1982 massacres

In house crisis :  Phalange Party still torn by internal tension

Alia Ibrahim
Daily Star staff
Despite growing conflict within the Phalange party,
reconciliation is still a possibility and compromise remains the best, albeit unlikely, solution.
A fierce battle will not be good for the Phalangists, Rashad Salameh, the partys first vice-president, told The Daily Star in an interview Friday.
Last week, 13 members of the politburo including the presidents foe and second vice-president Karim Pakradouni scheduled early elections for Oct. 4, fueling the conflict between the politburo on one side and former President Amin Gemayel on the other. This step, though legal, was aimed at minimizing Gemayels chances to win the elections in case he decided to stand, according to Salameh. Everyone is expecting a battle that might yet prove to be an illusion, he said. He explained that the calculations made by the politburo were all based on the assumption that Gemayel would be running for the elections. They are preparing the tools for battle, an arsenal that eventually they might not even need, he added. From his side, Salameh is still hoping that a compromise will be reached, and a new consensus candidate named for the presidency of the party, with a politburo representing all the conflicting sides within the party. A potential candidate, Salameh considered this to be the best solution for the party. Every time we had an electoral battle the party lost some of its competence, he said. Salameh referred to the 1986 battle between George Saade and Elie Karame which ended with the latter leaving the party. He also mentioned the 1992 battle between Saade and Samir Geagea, after which Geagea left the party.
A strong Phalange will include everyone, from Elie Karame, (head of the Phalange opposition) to Gemayel to Pakradouni to all the old party members, Salameh said.
As for the tools being prepared by the politburo to fight Gemayel, Salameh said they include the appointment of new representatives and the reduction of the number of elected representatives, in addition to holding early elections.
According to Salameh, electoral bodies within the party get to elect the 20 politburo members, including the partys president and his three deputies. The elected politburo in its turn appoints six members, in addition to any card-carrying party member, doubling as MP, who automatically assumes a seat on the politburo. As for the electoral bodies, Salameh explained that there are two types: the fixed body made of the politburo members in addition to appointed representatives of the partys 51 units which include regions, districts, syndicates and clubs.
The other electoral body is comprised of representatives directly elected by party members. Salameh said that according to the partys by-laws, the number of the elected representatives should be three times the number of the appointed representatives. He said this article was introduced to promote democracy within the party, formed in the 1930s by the late Pierre Gemayel. Commenting on last weeks events, Salameh considered Gemayels complaints well founded, while stressing there is nothing illegal about the measures adopted by the present politburo. On the appointment of the 13 heads of unit, Salameh said that not only are they all supporters of the present politburo, but also they came to replace some of Gemayels supporters.
The partys by-laws stipulate that the politburo appoints unit representatives for a maximum mandate of three years; accordingly, they have the right to replace them at any time before their three-year term is over. Three of Gemayels supporters have been replaced, one of whom was appointed only four months ago, and all 13 new ones are supporters of the present politburo, Salameh said.
He said Gemayel considered this step to be part of the battle to destroy his election chances in case he runs for president. And he is justified because the politburo is kind of sending him a message in that regard, he said.
Another point that Gemayel opposes is the number of elected representatives. In the coming elections scheduled for Oct. 4, each of the partys 31 districts will have only one elected representative. That would, for example, give Baalbek, which hosts several hundred party members, equal representation to Metn hosting thousands of Phalange members. Salameh explained that the by-laws also stipulate the number of elected representatives be three times the number of appointed ones. Salameh said that in the past there were 50 appointed representatives and 150 elected ones. Each district received one representative and the surplus was divided among the other districts relative to the density of party members in the area. Accordingly, in the past, Metn had nine representatives, Batroun had six and Rmeil had two, he said. This time and because of vacancies there is no surplus, he added. Saying that there was a legal and justifiable reason why the politburo was not working on filling the vacancies, Salameh admitted that this was another measure to control the outcome of the elections. Turning to a reconciliation paper that was presented to Gemayel and Karame and to which the two agreed, Salameh said that it had four main points.
He said the paper was first based on the understanding that both the partys leadership and base needed each other, and that all parties would accept the consensus unconditionally and irrelevant of their own interest. Accordingly, the Phalanges clout would not depend on whether Gemayel or Pakradouni heads it, he said. The document also suggested a vision for the role of the party based on the Phalange doctrine stipulating the principle of Lebanon as a sovereign, independent and free country, and the amendment of some articles. Commenting on relations between Pakradouni and current Phalange President Mounir Hajj, Salameh said the two had reconciled. They realized they need each other, he said. But also because there was encouragement from the state, he added. Meanwhile, the conflict between Gemayel and the politburo is still on the rise. Fridays events contradicted the calls for the opening of dialogue a day earlier. Metn MP Pierre Gemayel fiercely responded to a politburo statement inviting all party members to attend a mass that will be held Sunday in the St. Mikhayel in Bikfaya to commemorate the partys founder Pierre Gemayel. The present leadership and those associated with working on the destruction of the party dont have a place among us, the statement said. Elsewhere, former minister Elie Hobeika issued a statement denying rumors that he is running for a position in the new politburo, saying that he did not renew his membership and hence cannot run for any posts.
DS 01/09/01