Negotiations to end the political impasse in Lebanon are taking place on several levels both inside the country and abroad, but the principal players seem not to recognize the urgency of the situation. There is only so much that dealings among outside powers can do: In the end, the deal that saves the Lebanese will have to be agreed - and respected - by Lebanese.
Foreign meddling has helped to put Lebanon in its unenviable position, but in many instances officials from other countries seem more concerned about the welfare of the Lebanese than do their own leaders. The latter continue to make childish speeches and quibble over inanities as time runs out on the selection of a new president, as though the only thing they can agree on is to collectively fiddle while Lebanon burns. Nonetheless, both the government and the opposition continue to claim that their positions are rooted in a desire to serve the best interests of the public. If that were true, the pace of the current contacts would be nothing short of relentless - and they would have begun long ago.
No, the priority of the political elite remains what it has always been in this country: to protect itself. Beirut's "authority" is an unfunny joke at the best of times, and with the power struggle having paralyzed what few functioning arms the state ever had, those in positions in influence are fostering their own interests by arranging and/or renewing sweetheart deals for their relatives and cronies. This can only ensure that however the political crisis plays out, the cultures of corruption and impunity will remain intact - and that the unscrupulous crooks who have always benefited from them will find a way to keep riding the gravy train.
Lebanon needs desperately to be led by someone for whom the country's future is more important than his or her own. Unfortunately, the system as currently designed filters out the vast majority of such individuals. The real challenge, therefore, is not to pick a president: It is to fundamentally change the way Lebanon is governed.