The Israeli prime minister and opposition leader failed to resolve a key dispute in coalition talks, and an alliance between them, seen as a prerequisite for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, remained out of reach yesterday. \nPrime Minister Ariel Sharon and opposition leader Shimon Peres, long-time rivals but also occasional political partners, met late Sunday to try to work out disagreements over next year's proposed state budget. No deal was reached, but Peres' Labor Party agreed to attend another round of coalition talks. \nSharon needs the moderate Labor for his planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements by the end of next year. Earlier this summer, he lost his majority in parliament, with some coalition allies quitting over the Gaza plan. \nSharon and Peres have reached preliminary agreement on the terms of the Gaza pullback, but remain stuck on economic issues. One Labor Party member described the government's economic policies as "piggish capitalism." \nIn the Sharon-Peres meeting late Sunday, a key issue was the timing of the Cabinet's vote on the budget. Labor has asked that the vote be postponed until it has joined the coalition. \nHowever, Peres said Sharon told him he could not put off the vote, scheduled for Sunday. Instead, the prime minister suggested they rush to form a coalition by that date, something the Labor leader said he doesn't rule out. \nStill, it appears unlikely the two sides will resolve all differences and meet the procedural requirements, such as a parliament vote, in such a short period. \nPeres said his party wants big-ger budget allocations for pensioners and regional councils, which suffer from severe deficits and have not been able to pay their employees for months. \nPublic radio reported yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has blocked plans drawn up by the housing ministry to build 1,300 new homes in four of the largest West Bank settlements. \nThe ministry had asked Sharon to give the final green light after completing preparatory ground work for the construction and obtaining the necessary authorization from the defense ministry. \nThe houses would have been built in Maale Adumin, Ariel, Kiryat Arba and Beitar Elite. \nAccording to the Haaretz daily, the freeze is only temporary and is designed to ensure that all building work is within the municipal boundaries of the settlements and does not breach agreements between the US and Israel. \nUnder the terms of the US-backed roadmap peace plan, Israel is obliged to freeze all settlement activity although Israeli officials have argued that this does not rule out natural growth in existing settlements. \nThe US State Department told Israel last week that "the roadmap calls for an end to all settlement activities, including natural growth", a point taken up by visiting White House envoy Elliott Abrams in talks with Sharon last Thursday. \nIn the Gaza Strip, an Israeli helicopter fired three missiles Sunday near the Gaza-Egypt border in what the army said was an attempt to deter "hostile activity" in the area. The strike caused no casualties. \nAlso Sunday, the Palestinian daily Al Quds quoted Palestinian President Yasser Arafat as saying continued Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement make it impossible to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. \nHowever, Ali Jarbawi of the Palestinian elections commission said voter registration would begin early next month, despite the hardships. "If we do our job properly, it will increase pressure for elections," he said. Many feel the Palestinian leadership is using the Israeli presence as an excuse to delay voting. \nPalestinians had hoped to hold elections in January this year and then in June, but each time put them off, blaming Israeli restrictions.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread
RISKY BUSINESS: The Chinese firm has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of 5G equipment not covered by US sanctions, but fears a wider ban could be announced in the UK Huawei Technologies Co believes it can supply 5G hardware unaffected by US sanctions to the UK for the next five years, sidestepping the expected conclusion of British emergency review on Tuesday. The company has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of kit, but fears a wider ban on its equipment is to be unveiled to placate rebel British Conservative Party lawmakers, who say that the Chinese supplier represents a national security risk. The British government on Friday said that it was “very likely” that British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden would make a statement to parliament on Tuesday