Hizbullah offered one-third of new Lebanese government

The Jerusalem Post (Link) - AP (September 7, 2009)

Hizbullah will take 10 of 30 seats in a proposed list for a new national unity government submitted to Lebanese president Michel Suleiman.

Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri said Monday that the Western-backed parliamentary majority would get 15 seats out of the 30-member Cabinet. The Hizbullah-led parliamentary minority would get 10 seats, while the president would choose the remaining five seats.

The unilateral submission by Hariri could anger Hizbullah and its allies, who have not approved the list. Together they have demanded to head several ministries, and offered several names that Hariri rejected.

Hariri has been trying to put together a Cabinet since he was appointed by Suleiman on June 27, but its formation has been prevented by disagreements over the allocation of top ministerial seat.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Beirut in August that if Hizbullah becomes an official member the Lebanese government, "[Israel] will hold the government accountable for any aggression against Israel coming out of its territory."

Israel had no official response to the political developments in Lebanon, with one official saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the issue in the past, and that his position then still stands.

In June, a day after Hariri was appointed the task of setting up Lebanon's next government and becoming its next prime minister, Netanyahu - in a clear message to Beirut - told the cabinet that if Hizbullah was included in the Lebanese government, Lebanon would be responsible for Hizbullah's actions.

"If Hizbullah joins the Lebanese government, then the Lebanese government is accepting responsibility for Hizbullah's actions, including its actions against Israel," Netanyahu said.

Government officials at the time said Netanyahu's comments were meant to inform the Lebanese that if a national unity government was created, Beirut would bear responsibility for Hizbullah's actions. The official said Israel would deem Hizbullah's participation in the new government as "a matter of extreme significance."

Netanyahu repeated his comments in the cabinet last month as well.