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Egypt Parliament Expels MP Okasha After Meeting with Israeli Ambassador

March 9, 2016

“The envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation, to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.”  (Isaiah 30:6–7)

While Egyptian Member of Parliament (MP) Tawfik Okasha defended meeting with Israel’s ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren, more than 100 other Egyptian MPs called for Okasha’s expulsion, successfully suspending him this past Wednesday with the required two-thirds majority.

“I recognize the State of Israel and all of our agreements are consistent with my world view,” Okasha told Egyptian newspaper Al-Tahrir before the suspension, defending his meeting with the Israeli envoy after considerable opposition.

Okasha, who also serves as a television anchor for the political-commentary channel Faraeen, issued the ambassador a dinner invitation from his post as anchor.

The MP said to the Al-Masry Al-Youm daily that he and Koren had discussed Israel’s “key role in the issue of the dam” that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile.  Okasha added that he was looking into meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well.

On February 25, Koren released photos of the previous evening’s private meeting on Facebook.  In the following days, Okasha was hit with a shoe by a fellow lawmaker, was closed out of the parliamentary chamber by security officials, and was accused by individual MPs of “unforgivable treason” and “political prostitution.”

As Okasha faced widespread rebuke, Egyptian MP and activist Mahmoud Badr said Okasha “belongs not in the Egyptian parliament, but rather in the Friends of Israel Union or in the Knesset [the Israeli Parliament].”

Egyptian journalist Mustafa Bakri said “welcoming the enemy Israeli ambassador at his house is a scandal, without exception.”  (Ynet)

However, the parliament’s official statement suggested concerns of national security over discussing the dam:  “The penalty is not over his meeting with the ambassador of a foreign country, but because of the issues discussed during this meeting, in relation to Egypt’s national security,” states the assembly’s website.  (Times of Israel)

Of the Egyptian parliament’s 596 members, 465 voted to eject Okasha, blocking his involvement in the remainder of the parliamentary session — its first meeting since the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi, on July 3, 2013 and the dissolution of the previous Islamist-dominated parliament in June 2012.

On May 15, 2011, Egyptian protesters waved Palestinian flags in front of the Israeli embassy in Giza as they burned a makeshift Israeli flag.

On May 15, 2011, Egyptian protesters waved Palestinian flags in front of the Israeli embassy in Giza as they burned a makeshift Israeli flag. (Photo by Gigi Ibrahim)

Since Morsi’s expulsion, Egypt has been reestablishing itself, electing its new parliament members as recently as last November and December to convene for the first time on January 10.  Israel-Egypt relations have also just begun to revive, with Israel returning diplomats to Cairo in September.  (The Washington Post)

Israel’s four-year absence from Egypt followed violent riots against the embassy on September 9, 2011, with mobs tearing down an outer wall and hundreds of people storming the embassy.  This past September, Israel installed its new embassy in a building in the courtyard of the ambassador’s residence.  (Haaretz)

Last week Wednesday, seemingly to calm the hostility of Egypt’s representatives toward Israel, Koren produced a video in Arabic to express his willingness to meet with anybody who so desires.

“I understand that my meeting with Okasha caused a storm but I, as an ambassador, welcome all people that want to meet with me,” said Koren’s video message, which was posted on the Israeli embassy’s website.

“It is incumbent upon us to accept others’ opinions in order to establish economic, cultural, and social relations between the two countries,” Koren said.

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