Several weeks before the Lebanese legislative elections, Druze political leader Walid Jumblat essentially shot himself in the foot by insulting his Maronite Christian and Sunni party allies in a conversation that wasn't as private as he thought...
Walid Jumblat is viewed as a pillar of the Lebanese multi-confessional, anti-Syrian alliance known as the "March 14 Alliance", opposed to the country's Shia faction. But the group's show of unity was dealt a severe blow when Jumblat was overheard calling the Maronites a "bad race" in a private meeting with Druze religious leaders. Extracts from the mobile phone video of this serious blunder were aired on several Lebanese media early this week, sparking outrage in the Christian community and among Jumblat's own allies.
In the same video, Jumblat also indirectly criticised his most powerful ally, Sunni leader Saad Hariri, by implying that Sunni combatants are useless in battle.
It could not have been worse timing for this footage, which risks alienating Jumblat from undecided Christian voters. Nicknamed "the windvane" by his detractors for his flip-flopping political alliances, Jumblat later apologised to the Maronite community and announced his intention to visit their patriarch before the end of the week to smooth things over.
Extracts from Jumblat’s videotaped blunder
This private conversation between Druze leaders shows that longtime tensions between Druze, Maronite and Sunni allies die hard.
"There's what's his name...Samir Geagea [leader of Jumblat's main Maronite ally party, the Lebanese Force]: wouldn't he have loved to see us Druzes fight against the Shia [in the May 2008 urban fighting during which Shia militias took control of several Sunni neighbourhoods of Beirut]. Even some Sunnis would have liked that. But we've seen the Sunnis in the field, huh! They didn't last more than 15 minutes... [reference to the 1, 000 Sunni fighers who were reportedly brought down from the north of the country as reinforcement but failed to push back Shia militas]."
Later in the video, Jumblat calls Maronites a "bad race":
"The next elections won't bring about any fundamental changes. The only problem with the Chouf [Jumblat's political stronghold] is that we no longer control the list of candidates since the return of the isolationists [Christians in favour of Lebanon's withdrawal from all implication in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict]. They're a bad race and they'll stay bad, unfortunately. If anybody knows the Maronites, it's us Druzes..."