Bahaa Hariri, the elder brother of Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, called on him not to form a government with Hezbollah, saying that Hezbollah should be declared a terrorist organization.
In the interview with Axios’ Barak Ravid, a prominent Tel Aviv-based Israeli journalist, Hariri said: “I think forming a government with Hezbollah is… a big mistake.”
According to Axios, Hariri is very concerned that in the coming weeks his brother will form a government that will be “controlled by Hezbollah,” which he said should be declared a “terrorist organization.”
“Hezbollah has caused a lot of damage to Lebanon internally and externally. They managed in 15 years to break Lebanon. Hezbollah and their cronies manage to bring down an empire,” he said, referring to Lebanon. “Their failure is huge.”
Bahaa and Saad are the sons of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was murdered in a 2005 car bomb widely blamed on Hezbollah. Saad Hariri is currently in discussions with Lebanese political parties, including Hezbollah, to try to form a government that aims to resolve Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis.
Bahaa Hariri told Axios that a government comprised of Iran-backed group members would hamper support of the Arab Gulf states or the broader international community, and therefore wouldn’t be able to bring Lebanon out of its economic and political crisis.
“To me it is clear that anyone who forms a government which is under the control of Hezbollah is not doing the right thing,” Bahaa told Axios.
The elder brother of Saad Hariri expressed his openness for peace between Lebanon and Israel. issuing that “Israel and Lebanon should settle their border disputes as part of steps toward a peace agreement.”
A position similarly expressed two weeks earlier by the daughter and advisor of Lebanon’s President, Claudine Aoun, when she declared in a TV interview that once the issues were resolved between the two countries, she would not reject peace with the enemy-state.
Last month, Israel and Lebanon launched US- and UN-mediated talks to resolve their conflict with the maritime border.
“This is a positive thing for Lebanon, but we have to make sure it doesn’t give Hezbollah any breathing space,” Bahaa Hariri said.
Soon after the publication of the interview on Tuesday, some Lebanese citizens reacted by slamming him for speaking to the Israeli journalist.
The 1943 Lebanese Criminal Code and the 1955 Lebanese Anti-Israeli Boycott Law clearly state that Lebanese nationals are “prohibited from any interactions with nationals of enemy states,” including Israel that continues to occupy Lebanese territories in Shebaa Farms.
With that, Bahaa backtracked directly due to the immense backlash.
“The American media institution Axios called Hariri and asked him a few questions about the political situation in Lebanon, and he answered it without knowing the nationality nor the residency of the journalist who conducted the interview,” a statement by Bahaa Hariri’s legal office said.
He insisted that he would never have agreed to the interview had he known the nationality or residence of the reporter.
Bahaa does not hold any official political or governmental position and is not believed to be close to his brother Saad. He had denied several times any interest in partaking in Lebanon’s political scene.
However, the businessman with a net worth of 2 billion dollars must undoubtedly be concerned by the economic collapse in his home country, where he like his family have financial and business interests.
Since anti-establishment protests broke out in October 2019, he began criticizing the deeply rooted corrupt state.