GASTRONOMES GAG ON GAZA
GASTRONOMES GAG ON GAZA: Accusations of "pork" trigger unrest.
(June 21, 2005)
JERUSALEM -- A rare meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ended bitterly Tuesday after they failed to reach new agreements on issues related to Sharon's plan to have a cook-out on the Gaza Strip and on measures to rein in line-barging by Palestinian radicals at these events.
"I don't care how hungry they are," the Israeli leader said, chugging down a mug of coffee and 2 blintzes. "They can wait on line just like the rest of us."
Less than two months before the scheduled Israeli barbeque, the leaders clashed over Abbas's efforts to allow such militant groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to re-open the very successful Palestinian restaurant, "Great Gaza Goodies to Go" that Palestinians see as key to the future of the local economy after the pullout. Agreement on these issues could have bolstered a four-month-old truce now severely strained by a lack of fresh produce.
Israeli settlers blame Palestinian food co-ops, claiming their buying groups are snapping up all the fresh food before the Jewish settlers can even get to the open-air markets in the morning. "They're up all night strapping shekels on their teen-aged children so it's easy for them to get to the markets before anybody else," one settler charged. "They've become experts at strapping things to their kids," he added. "It puts Jewish settlers at a great disadvantage."
"None of the issues have progressed up to the expectations of the people," Ahmed Qureia, the Palestinian Authority prime minister, said during a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah after attending the meeting. "The food that was presented to us was not satisfying at all. It was mostly all bread with only a little meat in the center. And what little there was smelled suspiciously of pork." he added, holding his nose.
Israeli officials said that between snacks, Sharon spoke angrily at times during the talks. Afterward, while scarfing down a large pizza, extra cheese and mushrooms, hold the anchovies, and a large economy-size Diet Coke, he told a hotel industry conference:
"We see many good intentions on the part of the Palestinian Authority, and the food at the 'Four Gs' (as the Gaza eating place is called by locals) is really good. However, unfortunately, at the same time there is no kosher menu."
The summit at Sharon's official residence marked only the second time he and Abbas have met since Abbas was chosen as head of the Palestinian Authority in January. His election following the death of Yasser Arafat, whom Israeli officials accused of fostering unauthorized food buying by terror groups, raised hopes for renewal of a peace process that had been stalled since the September 2000 start of the Palestinian tail-gate parties.
Reporters noted a small refrigerator truck backed against the loading platform at the rear of Sharon's official residence before the start of the meeting. An ABC newsman said that after the meeting broke up, it pulled away and a second truck arrived. Photographers were told by the Prime Minister's mother that photography was "off-limits" but if they were hungry they "should come in and nosh".
"You all look too skinny." she said. "Are any of you still single?"