BEIRUT — The Lebanese government and parliament both oppose a U.S. plan for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Wednesday, the National News Agency reported.
The first phase of President Trump’s plan to revive the peace process is being discussed at an economic workshop in Bahrain and calls for a $50 billion investment fund to boost the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies.
The $6 billion set aside for Lebanon has been widely seen in the country as an incentive to accept the permanent settlement of Palestinians who have lived among the Lebanese as refugees since the creation of Israel in 1948.
All the main Lebanese parties oppose the permanent settlement of Palestinians, largely for fear of disturbing the sectarian balance between Christians and Muslims.
“The government with parliament are against this deal and our constitution bans naturalization,” Hariri said.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri came out strongly against the U.S. initiative on Sunday, saying anyone who thought “waving billions of dollars” could get Lebanon to barter “over its principles” was mistaken.
The Lebanese group Hezbollah has declared the plan a “historic crime” that must be stopped.
Rejecting the naturalization of Palestinians has been a rare point of agreement among Lebanese through a troubled history including the 1975-90 civil war in which Palestinian groups played a major role.
The first part of the plan is set to be unveiled by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, at a Bahrain conference on Tuesday. The Lebanese government was invited but is not attending.
The prospects of the plan getting anywhere do not look good: The Palestinian Authority is itself staying away from the conference and has refused to deal with the Trump administration for 18 months, accusing it of bias toward Israel.
“As a Lebanese and an Arab, I reject the entire American project,” said Hussam Mneimneh, a 43-year-old taxi driver. “And with regards to the Lebanese part, of course I am against Palestinian naturalization, not because we are against Palestinians, but so they return to their country.
“It doesn’t suit us for there to be naturalization of any nationality because it creates a demographic, geographic imbalance, and this is something we do not accept.”
Edmond Chammas, a 55-year-old Christian Lebanese, said any permanent settlement of Palestinians would destabilize Lebanon.
“Certainly, with all my love for the Palestinian people, I hope they return to their country,” he said. “We have enough problems and we wish them luck but I am certainly against naturalization.”
There are some 470,000 registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon though an official 2017 census found the number living here to be less than half that at some 175,000.
Lebanon tightly restricts their right to work and bans them from owning property.
At the Shatila camp in Beirut, where Christian militiamen massacred hundreds of Palestinians during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, a banner echoes Palestinian rejection of the U.S. plan: “Our right of return will defeat the deal of the century.”
Maps of historic Palestine and posters of Palestinian leaders are pasted to the walls of the camp’s narrow alleyways.
“Nobody can accept an alternative to his homeland. Our stay is temporary,” said Hassan Ali Abdel Rahman, a refugee in his 50s.
Lebanon was invited to the Bahrain conference but is not attending.