- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

JERUSALEM A reception organized by Chinese authorities in Beijing to mark the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Israel displayed the wrong national flag and featured non-kosher food that Jews are forbidden to eat, according to a Tel Aviv daily.
Yediot Ahronot reported that the anomalies were intended to signal China's displeasure at Israel's backing out of an agreement to sell it the Phalcon early-warning airborne system. Israel did so under American pressure.
According to the report, the reception was attended by some 80 low-level Chinese officials rather than senior personnel. It was held not in a festive hall, as had been originally planned, but in a small room decorated with a Norwegian flag, which bears no resemblance to the Israeli flag, and Christmas baubles.
The food served included shrimp and pork, which Jews are forbidden to eat. Although many secular Jews do eat these foods in private, Israel is careful to notify foreign hosts that such food in unacceptable on official occasions.
Such a notification was issued in this case, as well, although the Chinese government, which has hosted numerous dinners for visiting Israeli officials, is well aware of the culinary restriction.
One of the Israeli guests, Reuven Merhav, said the arrangements were clearly the result of a high-level government decision.
"The object was to humiliate Israel," said Mr. Merhav, who as Israeli consul in Hong Kong a decade ago paved the way for diplomatic relations during a secret visit to China.
The reception was originally to be held in the parliament building in Beijing and was to be a glittering event.
The venue was changed two weeks ago after an Israeli delegation negotiating the compensation to be paid to China due to the cancellation of the Phalcon contract left without an agreement having been reached.
Beijing is reportedly demanding more than $1 billion in compensation. To add to China's chagrin, Israel is negotiating to sell the planes to Beijing's regional rival, India.

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