Jumayyil, Amin (1942–)

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JUMAYYIL, AMIN (1942–)

Lebanese Maronite political figure, born on 22 January 1942 at Bikfaya, in a politically active family. His father, Pierre Jumayyil, was the founder of the right-wing nationalist Christian Phalange (Kataʾib) Party, and his younger brother, Bashir, was president-elect of the republic (but did not take office) in 1982.


A lawyer by training, Amin Jumayyil went into politics early on, encouraged by his family. He joined the Phalange in 1961, and nine years later became a deputy, taking the seat of his uncle Maurice, who had recently died. He was reelected in 1972, but ceded his place as the head of Phalange to his younger brother, Bashir, leader of the Phalangist militia. During the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), his public image was that of a "politico," while Bashir, who commanded the Lebanese Forces (LF), an alliance of Maronite Christian militias formed in 1976, was an active, enthusiastic participant in the war. In 1981, Amin Jumayyil was elected secretary general of the Phalange. In June 1982 Lebanon was invaded by Israel, which bombarded Beirut, where the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was headquartered, for weeks. After a ceasefire negotiated by the United States, the PLO left Lebanon for Tunis, the withdrawal supervised by a Multinational Force (MF) composed of American, French, and some Italian troops, and the Israelis and Syrians withdrew from the city. On 23 August 1982, Bashir Jumayyil, an asset of both the CIA and the Mossad, was elected president of the republic. On 10 September, the last MF troops departed.

On 14 September, a week before he was to take office, Bashir Jumayyil was assassinated. The next day Israeli forces, violating the ceasefire agreement, moved into Beirut to help the Lebanese Forces secure the city. With the help of the Israelis, the LF moved into the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and murdered an estimated 1500–3000 civilians, ostensibly in reprisal for the assassination of Bashir Jumayyil (who had actually been killed by Syrian nationalists who wanted to annex Lebanon). On 21 September 1982, parliament elected Amin Jumayyil president in place of his brother. After the massacres, the United States and France returned the Multinational Force to Beirut. In May 1983, under pressure from the United States, Jumayyil agreed to sign a peace treaty with Israel, which was actually ratified by parliament. Opposition to this treaty among Lebanese—and by the Syrians—was so great, however, that Jumayyil felt obliged to refuse to sign it. The Syrians would not negotiate, and the Israelis, who had been protecting Jumayyil's government from its factional enemies, withdrew their forces from the Shuf district southeast of Beirut to South Lebanon. Fighting among the factions then broke out again. The "peacekeepers" became involved in the fighting on the Christian side—American warships shelled Syrian positions in the mountains (killing many civilians in the process)—which provoked retaliation on the ground. In October, suicide bombings, probably carried out by Hizbullah, killed 241 American and 56 French soldiers. The Multinational Force troops were kept in their barracks and eventually left Lebanon in the spring of 1984.

By February 1984 so many Muslim and Druze soldiers had deserted the army, many to factional militias, rather than fight on behalf of a sectarian Christian government, that the army disintegrated. Jumayyil repudiated the agreement with Israel in March 1984. However, opposition to him increased, while the death of his father in August 1984 further accentuated his isolation in the Christian camp, resulting in bloody confrontations between his supporters and members of the militia that was led by Elie Hobeika and Samir Geagea. On 12 March 1985, these two took over the command of the Lebanese Forces. A year later, he backed Samir Geagea, who, on 15 January 1985, expelled Elie Hobeika from the leadership of the LF. In the following month, he refused to resign the presidency of the republic, in spite of intense pressure from the opposition. The latter reproached him for not having ratified the accord between the militias that was signed on 14 January by the leaders of the Shiʿite AMAL, the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), and the Maronite LF, and which was thought amenable to bringing back peace. In spite of the opposition of Christian leaders, whose chief he was supposed to be, he made overtures to Syria, which led to a schism in the Christian camp.

On 17 January 1987 he took part in the "Christian summit" of Smar Jubayl, with former presidents Camille Chamoun, Charles Hilu, and Sulayman Franjiyya, to try reunifying their movement. On 12 February 1988, he narrowly escaped death when a bomb was discovered in an airplane that was about to take him from Cyprus to Sanaa, Yemen. On 22 September, just before the end of his presidential term and without a successor having been elected, in order to maintain the Christian camp in power, he formed a provisional government led by the Maronite general Michel Aoun, while the official prime minister, Selim al-Hoss, was refusing to resign. At the beginning of October, after receiving death threats from the Lebanese Forces of Samir Geagea, he left Lebanon to go to Paris. In June 1991, he met with Shimon Peres in Brussels and discussed the situation in South Lebanon. In 1992, after returning home to attempt to persuade the Phalangist party to boycott the legislative elections, he was obliged, under government pressure, to cut his stay short.

In July 2000, after twelve years as an exile, he returned to Lebanon, where the situation had changed, due to the death of Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from South Lebanon. He made an attempt to regain the leadership of Phalange, but was frustrated, and later formed a splinter group called Kataʾib al-Qaʿida (the Phalange Base). In 2002 he was expelled from the party, and sued, for insulting the leadership (he used the term "prostitution" in reference to the leadership of current secretary general Karim Pakraduni).


SEE ALSO AMAL; Aoun, Michel; Asad, Hafiz al-; Chamoun, Camille; Druze; Franjiyya, Sulayman; Geagea, Samir; Hizbullah; Hobeika, Elie; Jumayyil, Bashir; Peres, Shimon; Phalange; Sabra and Shatila.