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5 - From Cooptation to Contestation to Political Power

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2021

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ABSTRACT

The remaining chapters shift the tenor of the book to more practical matters of Hizbullah's political strategy in relation to its identity construction. Hizbullah altered its identity and militant character of the 1980s – when it anathematized the political system and regarded the Lebanese state as an apostate – to a gradual integration process in the political system, in particular, and the Lebanese public sphere, in general, since the end of the civil war in 1990 and the party's acceptance of the Ta’if Agreement, which became Lebanon's new constitution. This chapter suggests that Hizbullah adhered to its policy of cooptation and contestation from the early 1990s to 2005, the year PM Rafiq Hariri was assassinated and the Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon after a presence of almost three decades, thus altering the rules of the game and even the geostrategic equation. This chapter argues that a bona fide policy shift, aiming at manipulation and obtaining more political power, picked momentum in the beginning of 2005, ensued with more vigour after the July 2006 War, and continues to be the norm till this day, through piecemeal socio-political engineering and identity reconstruction that allows Hizbullah to read and interpret events and react to these dynamic changes accordingly, dwelling on the complexity, flexibility, and pragmatism of Shi‘ite jurisprudence, and thus rendering legitimacy to the party's behavior.

COOPTATION TO CONTESTATION

Hizbullah as an open national actor: The party's infitah policy

Since the public sphere “enables participation in collective choice, whether about specific policy issues or basic institutions… [and since] the public sphere is itself a medium of social integration, a form of social solidarity, as well as an arena of debating others”, Hizbullah shed its irredentist ideology and deemed it an absolute necessity to integrate into the Lebanese public sphere, rather than to shun it by employing the policy of infitah (opening-up). As mentioned earlier, in general, Hizbullah employs the term infitah or ‘Lebanonization’ to denote its political discourse, deeds, and policies in the era of the political program, or to signify its enrolment in Lebanese domestic political life. Thus, Hizbullah's infitah aims at inculcating an open dialogue policy in a pluralistic setting through interaction and cooperation with all Lebanese sects and communities that comprise the Lebanese myriad, in order to rid Lebanon of its political and social problems, foster national unity, and build a stronger, united Lebanon on shared common grounds.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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