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liamentary elections. The kind of parliament we have is actually a parliament of a totalitarian country where 99.9 percent system is being followed. It means in the Parliament there is absolutely no opposition for the time being, and all the decisions considering the Constitution are taken by a very huge majority of 99.9 percent.

Another crucial way our national institutions are being dismantled is the change in our demography. Not only the institutions, but also the demography of the country. Recently, with the mere stroke of a pen, the government granted citizenship to nearly half a million aliens in a country of only 3 million people, can you imagine? That would be equivalent to 45 million people in the United States. So it is a demography that is changing. By the time the Syrians do withdraw, Lebanon will have been completely changed, even demographically.

This granting of citizenship was really unique in our history. Most previous Presidents only used their power to grant fewer than 100 such requests each during their entire 6-year terms.

So what do I propose? First, let me say that what I suggest, what I truly believe, that without Syrian and Israeli interference and intervention, we Lebanese, if left alone, would have resolved our own problems.

But now, under the current circumstances, I would suggest the following interconnected steps: First is the full implementation of the 1989 agreement which stipulates a Syrian pullback to East Lebanon away from Beirut. This agreement has the full support of the United States. At that time I had some reservations, but for the time being it is essential for the Syrians at least to respect their commitments under this agreement.

Second must be the withdrawal of Israeli forces from South Lebanon according to the U.N. Resolutions 425, 426, and 520.

Third, the Syrians must withdraw from all of Lebanon.

Fourth, all Lebanese must be able to participate in free elections held under international supervision.

I am here before you today to urge the United States to support actively a policy based on the principles on which this great Nation was founded. I urge the United States not to compromise or follow a policy of accommodation in order to placate our more powerful neighbors which would sacrifice American moral principles. Such a policy, in the end, will not bring peace to the Middle East.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Gemayel appears in the appendix.]

Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. President, for your very eloquent remarks.

Mr. Rahall.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On a personal note, Mr. President, I want to express my pleasure in being with you once again. I know that our friendship goes back to my first visit to Lebanon in 1979, with you and your late broth

er.

Mr. GEMAYEL. My colleague at that time. I was a Member of the Parliament.

Mr. RAHALL. That is correct. We were colleagues at that time; that is correct.

Most importantly, and with great humility and respect for you, you have honored me by bestowing upon me the Cedars of Lebanon during your tenure as President, recognition that I hold quite dear to my heart, and I appreciate that very much.

You have given very good testimony, and your recommendations are fully noted, the first of which is your calling for the full implementation of the Taif agreement, which stipulates the Syrian pullback to East Lebanon, as you stated.

Is that not pretty much done today as far as the Syrian troops being out of Beirut itself, perhaps not in full compliance with the Taif agreements, but at least as far as the city of Beirut itself? You don't see Syrian troops in the city today. Are they still there and just hidden, or have they withdrawn from the city? There are no checkpoints, the green line is not there, et cetera, et cetera.

Mr. GEMAYEL. When you landed at the Beirut Airport, I am surprised you did not see it was surrounded by Syrian soldiers and intelligence officers. There are even the portraits of the Syrian leaders. They are everywhere in Beirut, including through the use of proxies, they completely control the Army, they control the intelligence, they control all major Lebanese institutions.

So they don't need a physical presence, because they have very strong control. Even if you don't see them, that does not mean they are absent.

Mr. RAHALL. OK. How would you advocate then that our U.S. Government act? Obviously, we are trying to work within the realities of the overall region. You have acknowledged that the State Department has made certain statements because they, as you just said in your opening statement, must deal with the current Lebanese Government. How do you then advocate, other than what you have said here—and I fully agree with these steps that you proposed—the implementation of the Taif agreements; the second step, withdrawal of Israeli forces; the third step is withdrawal of Syrian forces; and then the fourth, all Lebanese citizens be allowed to participate in internationally supervised free elections. I agree with all of those. How should our government go about actually implementing these?

Mr. GEMAYEL. I think there is a real window of opportunity for a strong diplomatic American initiative because the Israeli and Syrian occupation of Lebanon has created a stalemate. In the environment of this diplomatic vacuum in the region, the time is ripe for the United States to step into the breach. The conditions are present in this stalemate to be transformed into a genuine initiative toward a lasting peace settlement.

First, the Lebanese Government, with Syrian backing, has called for the implementation of U.N. Resolutions 425 and 426. Even though Israel was opposed to the implementation of 425 and 426, Prime Minister Netanyahu now proclaims a “Lebanon First” plan which calls for an Israeli withdrawal concurrent with implementation of security arrangements in the south.

So what is 425 and 426? 425 and 426 is known as withdrawal plus security arrangements. What Mr. Netanyahu is calling for is withdrawal and security arrangements. Let us call it “Lebanon First”. Without implementation of 425 and 426, there is no possibilFormerly, it was the Israelis who refused the implementation of 425 and 426. Now there is kind of a common ground. At the same time, the Hizbollah leaders are saying they are ready to disarm, as long as the Israelis withdraw from the south. If the Israelis withdraw, we are ready to disarm.

So there is a conjunction of three factors: The Lebanese call for 425 and 426, the Israeli proposal for their withdrawal under a “Lebanon First” plan, and the Hizbollah is saying it is ready to disarm after an Israeli withdrawal from the south. So these are really the building blocks.

My proposal is for the United States to bring the three partners-Lebanon, Syria, and Israel-together to the advantage of this window of opportunity to launch a new initiative to get all three to live up to the Taif agreement and to their engagements. I am convinced that a U.S. initiative would create a kind of momentum in the region that others would follow to fill the diplomatic vacuum, and restore confidence in the peace process.

Mr. RAHALL. So the United States should be pushing ahead to get the Lebanese Government and Israelis to negotiate, absent any progress in the overall peace track?

Mr. GEMAYEL. To help everybody to live up to their commitments and statements, that is all. There is an opportunity. Since actually there is no real diplomatic move in the area toward the peace process, Lebanon could become a first step; it could pave the way. Lebanon could be a starting point toward resuming the larger peace process. Lebanon could be a first initiative toward achieving peace in the region.

Mr. RAHALL. Thank you very much.

Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Rahall. I thank you for standing by throughout the hearing.

Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to be here, although not a Member of your Committee. I appreciate it.

Chairman GILMAN. It is good having someone who has personal knowledge on the issue take part.

Mr. President, as we have discussed here today, Congress is seriously concerned about the continued presence of foreign forces in Lebanon, especially by the loss of Lebanon's sovereignty as a result of all of this.

What should our Nation do to address the reality that Lebanon is not an independent, free State? What policy changes should we make to try to encourage an independent sovereignty?

Mr. GEMAYEL. As I have outlined in my testimony, Mr. Chairman, I believe there are four steps. And with the dynamic diplomatic initiative of the Clinton Administration, I am concerned that there is an opportunity. But what we need is diplomacy with muscle.

Chairman GILMAN. How do we get Syria, for example, to withdraw? Israel said if Syria will withdraw, they will withdraw.

Mr. GEMAYEL. It is difficult to have a resolution, without agreeing to all the steps as a package. We cannot deal with each issue by itself. They are really interconnected.

Chairman GILMAN. Do you think if there can be an eventual peace arrangement between Syria and Israel, that then Syria

would be willing to withdraw? Or is Syria still going to be determined to make an all-Syria region, including Lebanon?

Mr. GEMAYEL. Not at all, Mr. Chairman. My country cannot wait until such time as Syria is ready to withdraw completely. The changes may be irreversible by then. That is the danger we are facing, actually. That is why we need full solidarity and cooperation with the Arab world, including Syria.

It may be premature to claim a complete separate peace between Lebanon and Israel, but at least we could get a genuine truce as a step toward peace for the time being, as was the case between Egypt and Israel before Camp David, between Jordan and Israel before Wadi Araba, and between Israel and Palestine since 1994 in the Golan Heights.

So what we require for the time being, this step, the implementation of the 425-426, that is the slogan of Lebanon First, which is another version of 425-426, the Hizbollah to live up with their engagements to disarm when the Israelis would withdraw.

So that is why there is an opportunity. It would be the first step. Lebanon did not suddenly collapse. It was a process of dismantling of our institutions. That is why we cannot rebuild quickly. Nobody has a magic wand, or can push a button. But we need a process and we can't wait. The process toward peace starts with this proposal which is workable and feasible, because there is an opportunity now.

But we need a strong initiative with muscles, a new U.S. involvement. Because the United States has leverage in the relationship with Syria and Israel, there is an opportunity to take this first step, which is essential. It appears as a very modest step, but this step is essential. It could have significant influence on the principal adversaries and could really impact the whole peace process in the Middle East.

Chairman GILMAN. Maybe what we need, Mr. President, is yourself to go over as a mediator, an arbitrator.

Mr. GEMAYEL. Excuse me?

Chairman GILMAN. We may need to have you act as the arbitrator. Are you available? Under what circumstances do you see yourself returning to Lebanon?

Mr. GEMAYEL. I am willing to work full time on that.

Chairman GILMAN. Under what circumstances do you see yourself being able to return to Lebanon? Do you still feel you have a political role to play in Lebanon?

Mr. GEMAYEL. Mr. Chairman, I can only answer that I am Amin Gemayel from the Gemayel family. Can you imagine for a single moment that we could abdicate or surrender while my country is occupied and my people are living without dignity? Believe me, I will pursue my struggle and I will work until my country is completely free and sovereign and my people live with dignity.

Chairman GILMAN. Good for you.

Just one last question. Lebanon has not had elections for municipal and village officials since the 1950's, yet the government wants to postpone those elections until 1998. Can you shed any light on why they want to postpone those elections at this point?

Mr. GEMAYEL. Mr. Chairman, this issue of municipal elections is try—and won't liberate it. I prefer to answer your questions by raising three questions myself. How can you imagine a dictatorship helping to rebuild a democracy? How can a country bent on hegemony help restore a neighboring country's sovereignty? And how can a socialist country help build free markets?

Municipal elections are part of a whole democratic process, and I can't imagine, really, a dictatorship helping rebuild a democracy at any level. That is why it is the essence of the problem. And when we will answer those three questions, at that time, really, we can move forward.

Chairman GILMAN. Mr. President, the last elections, 1996, the parliamentary elections, do you feel they were fairly held? There was some question about by our State Department with regard to whether or not they were fair.

Mr. GEMAYEL. I will note two things, Mr. Chairman. First, I refer to the statement made by David Welch, himself, saying that there were serious problems. And the second point is, look at the result.

I, myself, wasn't able to run or to return to my country and to run for a Parliament, because my security was threatened at that time. So many, many others also could not return to run. And that is why you have a rubber stamp Parliament for the time being. The 1996 election was no breakthrough or miracle.

I am sure you would like to have such a consensus here in the United States, in the Congress or the Senate, to have only one voice and be able to vote on major and essential issues and national issues, with 99.9 percent.

Earlier I mentioned the reelection of President Harawi. A few months before the election, I remember very well several statements by several Lebanese, leaders and Members of Parliament saying, they couldn't believe, for a single moment, that they could accept or approve the reelection of President Harawi, because the renewal of the mandate would be unprecedented. Yet when the moment of truth arrived, all those people came in with one voice to renew the mandate of President Harawi.

So that is why I am saying that actually we don't have a Parliament. We have only a body invented, created, and built just to

, endorse Syrian decisions and aims in Lebanon.

For those who are saying that it is up to the Lebanese Government to call for the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon, I can tell you that the President himself, the Members of the Parliament and the members of the government, have been imposed upon us by Syria specifically for the purpose of endorsing the permanent Syrian presence in Lebanon. They are there precisely to object to any request from the United States or from others to implement the Taif agreement, which would require the Syrian Army to withdraw from Lebanon. They are there to oppose the withdrawal and the implementation of the President or the other leaders in Lebanon.

I respect the Lebanese leaders; I have a close friendship with them, but I can assure you that they are intimidated and they are not at all able to really express the Lebanese peoples' interests or to preserve and defend Lebanese national interests.

If you will allow me to take just 2 minutes, I'd like to talk about a document I received. It is a memorandum about a message deliv

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