Israel's new leader Ariel Sharon met his defeated foe Ehud Barak yesterday to discuss forming a coalition strong enough to face a Palestinian revolt.
A spokesman for Sharon's Likud party had said they would discuss "coalition issues," but a statement from Barak's office after the two-hour meeting mentioned only a "diplomatic and security update" as well as talks on the transfer of power.
Leaders of Barak's Labour party said they wanted Sharon to explain how he would make peace with the Palestinians, who are waging a four-month-old revolt against Israeli occupation.
Palestinian protesters burned an Israeli flag and an effigy of Sharon in the West Bank town of Ramallah yesterday, witnesses said. Youngsters hurled stones and petrol bombs at Israeli troops in the divided city of Hebron.
Witnesses said about 200 flag-waving Jewish settlers staged a protest at Gush Etzion near the West Bank town of Bethlehem against last week's killing of a settler by Palestinian gunmen. No casualties were reported in the unrest or in overnight battles between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers guarding the Jewish settlement of Psagot in the West Bank.
Sharon, 72, crushed Barak in Tuesday's prime ministerial election on a pledge to halt Palestinian violence and renounce concessions offered by Barak in search of a peace deal.
The prime minister-elect spoke by telephone with senior Palestinian negotiator Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, on Thursday night, a source in Sharon's office said.
"Abu Mazen expressed the will of the Palestinian leadership to resume the talks with Israel. Sharon told him that the condition for the resumption of talks was the complete halt to violence and terror," the source said.
He quoted Sharon as saying he was committed to the peace process, and willing to ease an Israeli economic blockade of Palestinian areas, but that violence must end first.
"We want to see the Palestinian Authority acting against the terror infrastructure ... I'm not an easy negotiator, but my word is my word and my red lines are very clear," Sharon said.
Palestinians launched their uprising against Israel after Sharon visited a Jerusalem site holy to both Muslims and Jews on Sept. 28. At least 318 Palestinians, 52 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed in violence since then.
The former general is reviled by Arabs for orchestrating the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which led to the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli-backed militias. He faces a late March deadline to form a coalition and pass the state budget.
If he cannot do either, he will face a new poll for prime minister and parliament. If he cannot forge a deal with Labour, he will have to lean on religious and nationalist parties likely to demand a harder attitude towards Palestinians.
Lower-level talks between Likud and Labour began on Thursday, just hours after a car bomb exploded in a religious Jewish area of Jerusalem, slightly injuring one woman.
A Palestinian unit calling itself the Sabra and Shatila Martyrs Group, after a 1982 massacre in Beirut for which Sharon was found indirectly to blame, claimed responsibility.
It said the unit was part of the previously unknown Palestinian Popular Resistance Forces. Another previously unknown group, the Popular Army Front, also claimed the attack.
"What happened today is another tragic event which demands we all unite to act with determination against terror," Sharon said after the blast near Arab East Jerusalem.
Barak, now caretaker prime minister, announced after his defeat that he would step down as Labour chief and resign from parliament once Sharon had forged a coalition and taken office.
But he decided on Thursday to head his party's negotiations along with elder statesman Shimon Peres.
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
CONSOLIDATION? Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive-general Doong Sy-chi said Beijing’s intimidation tactics are further alienating those who identify as Chinese Only 2 percent of respondents to a poll on constitutional amendments and national identity identified as Chinese, while 62.6 percent identified as Taiwanese, the Taiwan Thinktank said yesterday. Legislators have proposed amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文), which would change the definition of the nation’s territory, remove the Taiwan Provincial Government as an entity, prioritize the use of “Taiwan” for national groups at international events, and remove restrictions on defining the national emblem, national flag and national anthem. The poll showed that 80.5 percent of respondents agreed that the nation should participate as “Taiwan” at events organized by world
MISTAKE: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is not a UN body, and the government is committed to protecting the nation’s name, Joseph Wu said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its Web site, and asked that it correct the error. The organization was inaugurated in Brussels in 2016 as a global coalition of mayors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six Taiwanese cities at the time joined the coalition as cities in “Taiwan,” the ministry said. However, officials from the Kaohsiung City Government — one of the organization’s members — last week noticed that the city was now listed on the organization’s Web site as a