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Egypt MP hit with shoe after hosting Israeli ambassador

Okasha has been criticised after hosting the Israeli ambassador for dinner [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 February, 2016

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Egyptian lawmaker Tawfik Okasha was attacked on Sunday by a colleague hurling a shoe at him and others demanding his suspension after he hosted the Israeli ambassador for dinner.

Controversial Egyptian MP Tawfiq Okasha was hit with a fellow parliamentarian's shoe as he entered the main hall of parliament on Sunday after meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

"This is a message from Abdel Nasser," MP Kamal Ahmed reportedly shouted as he struck Okasha on the head with his shoe.

Ahmed was referring to late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ruled Egypt from 1956 until his death in 1970, a staunch opponent of Israel and an advocate of pan-Arab nationalism.

"I would hit him again if I had the chance," Ahmed told The New Arab, "I wish I could have shot him."

"What I did was a message to Netanyahu and all the Zionists," he added.

According to state-run news agency MENA, the parliament session was adjourned for 10 minutes as the two lawmakers were ordered to leave.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal also referred both MPs to an investigation.

Okasha, who is also a popular TV talk show host, has been engulfed in controversy since Wednesday, when he hosted Israeli ambassador Haim Koren for dinner at his house.

During the meeting, Okasha reportedly discussed several local and regional issues with the Israeli diplomat, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the construction of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

"[Okasha] proposed the meeting, at which he raised ideas of us helping Egypt in the areas of water, agriculture and education - to try to set up a number of schools with Israeli training," Koren told Reuters by telephone.

"I offered to work on putting this together, and that we meet again. I will soon be inviting him over to our place. He showed great courage. He knew he would be attacked, and nonetheless he stood firm on his convictions."

[Okasha] proposed the meeting, at which he raised ideas of us helping Egypt in the areas of water, agriculture and education
- Ambassador Haim Koren

The dinner sparked outrage in local media and among other MPs, who had decided to form a special committee to investigate the controversial meeting.

The MPs opposed to Okasha's meeting with the Israeli diplomat are led by novelist Youssef al-Qaeed, a presidential appointee to the parliament, who described the meeting as "a crime against Egypt's new parliament and its MPs".

"This was the first time in the history of Egypt's relations with the Israeli enemy that Israel's ambassador went outside Cairo to meet with an MP in his home," he told reporters on Saturday.

"While each Egyptian MP represents the nation as a whole, the nation continues to consider Israel as Egypt's first enemy, as long as it abuses the rights of the Palestinians.”

According to a statement entitled "MPs against normalisation", scheduled to be delivered by the Social Justice parliamentary bloc during Sunday's session, the MPs were also appalled that Okasha had asked the Israeli ambassador to visit parliament.

When an MP calls for the normalisation of relations [between Egypt and Israel], I consider it a betrayal of national security and the Palestinian question
- MP Ihab Radi

"MPs would rather set the building of Egypt's parliament on fire than have the Israeli ambassador visit it," the statement said.

MP Ihab Radi accused Okasha of breaching Egypt's national security and called on the parliament to revoke his membership.

"When an MP calls for the normalisation of relations [between Egypt and Israel], I consider it a betrayal of national security and the Palestinian question," he said.

On social media, many users criticised Okasha for hypocrisy, as he made his opposition to "an American-Zionist conspiracy to destablise Egypt" a hallmark of his one-man show on his Faraeen TV channel.

Pro-regime MP Mustafa Bakry described the meeting as a "disgrace", calling on the head of parliament to condemn the dinner date.

"Has Okasha forgotten about prisoners of war that were buried alive by the Zionists?" Bakry asked.

Okasha told local media before the opening of Sunday's session that he had done nothing wrong since Egypt enjoys full diplomatic relations with Israel.

On Saturday, Okasha said he had "full constitutional authority" to invite Israel's ambassador to his home.

"I know that such a move could represent an affront to the feelings of most Egyptians who still reject normalising relations with Israel," he said in a meeting with a limited number of parliamentary correspondents.

The controversial TV host also described the wide criticism he receieved as a "media show".

Many Egyptians, including workers' unions and professional syndicates, have rejected the normalisation of Egyptian-Israeli relations since Cairo and Tel-Aviv signed a peace treaty in 1979.

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