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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former New York mayor Ed Koch, who has recovered from both a stroke and a heart attack, has a stark message for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: Change your eating habits or you're going to kill yourself.
Koch, who recently turned 81, said Wednesday he delivered the same warning to the prime minister many years ago, having spent time with Sharon both in Israel and in the US.
Over dinner one evening at Sharon's Negev farm, Koch recalls telling Sharon with inimitable frankness, "I love you, and I worry you're going to die. You're fat and you eat too much." Sharon, he said, retorted: "I hardly eat." But, Koch went on, "when he came to visit me [as New York mayor] at Gracie Mansion, he ate off my plate! I've never seen anything like it. Somebody better take control."
A "Weight Watchers" plastic mug stands in a prominent place on the desk in Koch's office at the New York law firm where he is now based, and he acknowledges readily that he's had weight problems his whole life.
"I was a fat little boy," he said, "but I was never as fat as Sharon."
One of the keys to his well-being, Koch said, was that he always speaks his mind: "I don't get ulcers, I give them."
Still, Koch had a stroke in 1987 and a heart attack in 1998, and, having recovered fully from both, said Sharon should regard this week's mild stroke as a warning.
"He needs to get a first-rate chef to make him first-rate food," he said, adding: "Israeli food is terrible. He needs non-calorific food that he'd like. It can be done, and it must be. His life is at stake... And when he goes to official dinners, the chef needs to give his guard a care package for him to eat there."
Koch said Sharon, because of his girth, might also find himself in a situation where he needed an operation but the doctors would be unable to carry it out.
He joked that Sharon's doctor told the media the prime minister had "had 'a trivial stroke.' I said there's no such thing. It might have been trivial to him, but it wasn't to me."
Koch said he'd always held Sharon in high regard, and having written an opinion piece urging Israel to relinquish the West Bank and Gaza years ago, Sharon "changed my mind" after taking him on a helicopter tour and detailing Israel's narrow dimensions, "the need to hold the high ground, and so on."
But, Koch said, he had since changed his mind again, and believed that "Jews cannot control Arabs, just like Arabs cannot control Jews." Sharon, of course, he added, "changed, too."