Jumblatt, Walid Kamal (1949–)

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Lebanese political figure, born in 1949 in Moukhtara, in the Lebanese Shuf, Walid Jumblatt belonged to one of the most important Druze clans in Lebanon, the Jumblattis. During his youth, drawn to Arab nationalism, Nasserist in inspiration, he met Gamal Abdel Nasser a number of times. In 1973, he obtained a degree in political science from the American University of
Beirut. In 1975, when the Lebanese war started, he participated in recruitment for the militia of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) led by his father, Kamal Jumblatt.

In April 1977, after Kamal's assassination, Walid Jumblatt became the head of the PSP and of the Lebanese National Movement (LNM), a federation of parties of the left opposed to the confessional system and favorable to the Palestinian cause. Although a supporter of the PLO, he opposed settling Palestinian groups in his fief of the Shuf. As his father's son, he also became an important leader of the Druze, in spite of the reservations of religious leaders, and he tried, vainly, to unify the different Druze currents. In June 1982, at the time of the Israeli invasion, he advocated "passive resistance." In September of the following year, backed by Syrian artillery and Palestinian fighters, he emerged victorious in combats in the Shuf district lasting several months, between Druze and Maronite militias, thereby consolidating his position as head of the Druze community.

After Lebanese president Ilyas Sarkis constituted a committee of national salvation, he participated in the work of this group, upholding at once Lebanese unity and the Palestinian cause. From April 1984, when he entered the government of Rashid Karame, until December 1998 (with only a four-month hiatus in 1991), he held various cabinet posts in several governments. From then on, Jumblatt become one of the leaders of the opposition to the new president, Emile Lahhud. After the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, he demanded that the Syrians also withdraw from the country. For the 2000 parliamentary elections, he joined with the Christian anti-Syrian faction, the National Bloc. As a result of this election, Jumblatt consolidated his position as opposition leader, most of his party's candidates defeating those backed by President Lahhud or by Damascus. He then refused an invitation to join the new government of Rafiq Hariri, to emphasize his opposition to the presence of Damascus in Lebanese affairs. He became persona non grata to the Syrians for some months after this.

On 4 August 2001, he received Msgr. Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Church, thereby sealing the reconciliation of the Druze and Maronite communities. On 16 August, he participated in the national congress for the defense of liberty and democracy, held at Beirut, in the course of which he reaffirmed his desire to unite opponents to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Since the attacks on the United States of 11 September 2001, he has made a number of public statements explicitly critical of American policies, and has grown friendly once again with the Syrians, although still advocating Lebanese independence of them. He has also parted ways with Msgr. Sfeir by advocating the reelection of Emile Lahhud as president.

SEE ALSO Jumblatt, Kamal;Karame, Rashid;Lahhud, Emile;Lebanese National Movement;Sfeir, Nasrallah;South Lebanon.