It now falls to Amin Gemayel, brother of the assassinated Bashir Gemayel, to try to heal Lebanon of its vicious feuding, forge a government of national unity , and rid the country of foreign forces. The task seems daunting. But his election as President by an overwhelming majority of the Lebanese Parliament on the first ballot is an auspicious beginning.
The election was relaxed - in stark contrast to the tense session which chose Bashir and was boycotted by many Muslim members. Clearly Amin Gemayel, though also of the Christian Phalangist party, has managed to distance himself from his brother's policies. He is regarded as a moderate and, as a member of Parliament for the past 10 years, established ties with Lebanon's disparate groups, including Muslim and PLO leaders.
Because of his brother's ruthless power Amin Gemayel was considered the weaker of the two. But the new President-elect has a rare chance to show that true strength lies not in the barrel of a gun but in the capacity to unite people, to persuade them to quiet sectarian strife, to get them working together for an independent Lebanon and for a better, fairer society.
No one can underestimate the problems he faces. He will be under the same pressures as his brother Bashir to conclude a peace treaty with Israel, pressures he will need to resist if he is to achieve national unity. He inherits a party which still bears the fascist stamp of its founder and which seeks to keep the Christian Maronites dominant in Lebanon at a time when Muslims are in the majority. Moreover, if the atrocities at the Shaba and Shatila camps can be traced to Phalangist hands as well as the forces of Major Haddad, that may make it even more difficult to govern.
But, after all the death and destruction that have scarred Lebanon these past months, there is a deep longing for peace on which Mr. Gemayel can build. With French, Italian, and American troops providing a calming presence in Beirut, with the United States exercising firm leadership, and with Israelis anguishing over the horrible results of their presence in Lebanon, it is just possible the new President will be able to put Lebanon on the road to restoration.
The world must hope so.