News from around the Arab world:
- Lebanon’s upcoming election — which pits Hezbollah and its allies against more Western-friendly factions — may be the country’s most corrupt in decades, The New York Times reports:
Lebanon has long been seen as a battleground for regional influence, and now, with no more foreign armies on the ground, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region are arming their allies here with campaign money in place of weapons. The result is a race that is widely seen as the freest and most competitive to be held here in decades, with a record number of candidates taking part. But it may also be the most corrupt.
Votes are being bought with cash or in-kind services. Candidates pay their competitors huge sums to withdraw. The price of favorable TV news coverage is rising, and thousands of expatriate Lebanese are being flown home, free, to vote in contested districts…
Despite the vast amounts being spent, many Lebanese see the race — which pits Hezbollah and its allies against a fractious coalition of more West-friendly political groups — as almost irrelevant. Lebanon’s sectarian political structure virtually guarantees a continuation of the current “national unity” government, in which the winning coalition in the 128-seat Parliament grants the loser veto powers to preserve civil peace.
- Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, still ticked off about Hezbollah-Iranian clandestine operations in his country, warned Iran and Hezbollah, that he would not tolerate "the intervention of regional powers that are hostile to peace and that aim to drag the region into the abyss," according to news reports.
- Daoud Kuttab writes in The Jerusalem Post that the U.S. should press Israel to connect Gaza and the West Bank, allowing Palestinian movement between the two:
Irrespective of the outcome of the internal Palestinian dialogue taking place in Cairo, Gaza and the West Bank must be reconnected. There is no excuse why Palestinians living in either part of Palestine should be barred from traveling to the other part of the occupied Palestinian territories. Despite claims by Israelis that barring the movement of people and goods from both parts of the occupied Palestinian territories is done for security reasons, the real reasons are clearly political and strategic. Under the leadership of General Dayton, the most robust security checks can be made, but there is absolutely no excuse to bar Palestinians from moving from the West Bank to Gaza and the other way around.