An «impatient but realistic» Schenker to «Janoubia»: I won’t pressure Lebanon to get into negotiations with Israel

David Schenker, the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs has a rather peculiar characteristics as is known of American diplomacy. Schenker does not equivocate nor does he avoid confrontation, he seems to be pragmatic and clearly impatient. His speech is closer to a military official than a diplomat, he calls things by their names and says what he needs to say and walks away.

After concluding his meetings with a number of Lebanese officials, the American embassy invited a few media representatives including “Janoubia” to a meeting with Schenker in the embassy’s headquarters in Awkar.

Personal impressions quickly creep into Schenker’s guests even if for a relatively short period of time. Most of Schenkers answers were not devoid of satire and firmness. The reason for his visit was not to pressure Lebanese government to engage in negotiation with Israel about border demarcation and oil extraction but to set the stage for it. He confirmed that he won’t force Lebanon and Israel to sign agreements and said that if an agreement were to happen it would be in the interest of both parties as it contributes to the reduction in tensions as well as the provision of revenues. Schenker hinted “modestly” that he is only here as a mediator and does not know the specific mechanisms to reaching an agreement. He further added “sarcastically” that he is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the course of the relations, but if things do not work out he will go back home and have dinner with his wife and kids.

Schenker hinted that he along with the United States are out of patience, he argued that he does not have the patience of his predecessor, David Satterfield, who happened to spend an entire year making little progress by leaving matters in the hands of the Lebanese. He added “why the Lebanese officials don’t take the decision to negotiate, a decision that would ultimately lead to border demarcation and oil extraction, the Lebanese should ask at a time when Israel is ready to agree”.

However, Schenker also described his expectations as being “Moutasha2el” (an arabic term that means optimistic and pessimistic simultaneously ) about the prospects of his assignment.

Concerned about the situation at the border and also not wanting to comment on the recent speech of Hezbollah’s secretary general Hasan Nasrallah, Schenker said: “How can a person love his country and at the same time show allegiance to another” and added, “Hezbollah is reacting to Iranian orders as a result of the pressure on Tehran which shows that its paying off.”

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