What May Be Happening in Madrid


October 31, 1991|By RICK HOROWITZ

Secret minutes from the opening session:

President Bush, speaking as co-host of the Middle East peace conference, welcomed the delegations to Madrid. He said that the people of the United States have always had a ''great desire'' for peace in the Middle East, and he praised the delegates for their willingness to ''sit down at the same table'' to work out their differences.

President Gorbachev, speaking as the other co-host of the conference, also welcomed the delegations to Madrid. He said that the people of the Soviet Union were ''too busy starving'' to pay any attention to the Middle East, but pointed out that going to conferences is the ''only fun part'' of his job anymore. Mr. Gorbachev offered to pass out the coffee and doughnuts that Mr. Bush had brought along.

Prime Minister Shamir noted that the only coffee available was ''regular,'' despite the fact that the Israeli delegation had publicly stated its preference for ''decaf.'' President Bush called for a pot of decaffeinated coffee to be brought into the room.

Mr. Shamir further noted that the Arab representatives had ''made off with'' all the chocolate honey-dipped doughnuts in the box. As the only Middle East head of government attending the conference, Mr. Shamir asserted, he should have been offered first choice of doughnuts. He suggested that the United States, in permitting the Arab representatives to control the doughnut-selection process, was ''no longer acting as an honest baker.''

Secretary of State Baker objected to this characterization, and offered Mr. Shamir his choice of any of the remaining doughnuts. Mr. Shamir threatened to walk out if his treatment did not improve, and selected an eclair.

The Palestinian delegate reached for a powdered-sugar doughnut, and Mr. Shamir observed that the Palestinian delegate was not entitled to a doughnut of his own, but was supposed to share the Jordanian delegate's doughnut, the vanilla cream.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev went into executive session and announced that the Palestinian delegate would be given a doughnut, but it would be the maple-frosted rather than the powdered-sugar.

Both the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations threatened to walk out if their treatment did not improve, while Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev reminded the delegates that ''trading crullers for peace'' could be the basis of a comprehensive settlement.

Mr. Shamir noted that the Palestinian delegate had been playing with the frosting on his doughnut, and that he had ''clearly'' spelled out the letters ''P-L-O.'' This proved, Mr. Shamir said, that the Palestinian delegation was controlled by Yasir Arafat and was still committed to Israel's destruction.

The Palestinian delegate replied that he had ''always'' played with his food, and that his choice of letters was ''purely coincidental.'' Mr. Shamir walked out.

Mr. Shamir walked back, but threatened to walk out permanently if his treatment did not improve.

Mr. Shamir took his place at the table, and immediately stood up again, asserting that someone had ''jellied'' his seat while he was gone.

The Egyptian and Lebanese delegates denied any involvement, while the Syrian delegate maintained that ''that's what you get when you don't stay where you belong.''

Mr. Shamir claimed that the jelly incident only ''hardened Israel's belief'' that Syria could not be trusted as a negotiating partner. The Syrian delegate offered to supply Mr. Shamir with ''more doughnuts than you can handle,'' and passed another jelly doughnut across the table.

Mr. Shamir knocked the doughnut out of the air before it caused significant damage, although Mr. Gorbachev sustained a jelly stain on his forehead.

The Syrian delegate then offered to send additional jelly doughnuts to Mr. Shamir, who pointed out, ''Oh yeah? You and what army?'' and made a counterproposal, offering to send a ''full payload'' of doughnuts to Syria ''any time you say.''

The Syrian delegate rejected the Israeli proposal, whereupon the two delegations engaged in a full and frank exchange of baked goods.

Other delegations joined in, and Mr. Bush, pointing out that the delegates were ''frittering away a golden opportunity,'' called on all sides to consider the benefits of peace for future generations.

Mr. Shamir replied that no one had offered him fritters before, and threatened to walk out if . . .

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist.

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