JERUSALEM – Joking about his health scare, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon returned to his regular work schedule Sunday for the first time since suffering a mild stroke.
Sharon gave ministers in the weekly meeting of his Cabinet a tongue-in-cheek warning about the dangers of fried foods eaten during the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which was beginning at sunset. After last week's stroke, doctors urged Sharon, who is 77 and overweight, to go on a diet.
"I hope you will all eat doughnuts and potato pancakes," Sharon said, smiling and prompting laughter. "You have permission to eat them but I recommend that you don't overdo it."
The Cabinet discussed the country's security situation in the wake of a series of Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, meeting participants said. A rocket landed near a power plant in the southern city of Ashkelon last week, and five soldiers were lightly wounded in a separate attack.
Sharon planned to discuss the matter with his security chiefs later Sunday, the participants said. Israel has pledged to impose an off-limits zone in northern Gaza to prevent the rocket fire.
Sharon spent most of last week resting after he was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 18, complaining that he felt bad. Doctors later said he suffered a mild stroke that had not caused any permanent damage. Sharon's blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal despite his weight, the doctors said.
The stroke has sparked calls for the prime minister to release his health records and set off media speculation about his weight, with estimates ranging from 258 to 313 pounds. Published reports have said Sharon is 5 foot 7 inches tall The newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday that Sharon has lost about two pounds since the stroke.
The newspaper Haaretz wrote in an editorial Sunday that Sharon should serve as an example and go on a diet.
"One can demand from a man whose leadership abilities are so outstanding, in the army as well as on the political battlefield, to show the same leadership when it comes to the area of health," the editors wrote.
Sharon's doctors have scheduled a news conference Monday to release details of his health records, Haaretz said. The stroke also has turned Sharon's health into a campaign issue. He hopes to win election to a third term as leader of a new centrist party in March 28 elections.