Egyptian Lawmakers: Remove Israeli Ambassador
Members of the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, demanded on Monday that the Israeli ambassador in Egypt be removed and that his Egyptian counterpart in Tel Aviv be recalled as well.
The reason for the request, according to a report in the Al-Ahram daily, is what the Council called “the continuing assaults against Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.”
Shura Council Speaker Ahmed Fahmy pointed out during a meeting that the Council does not have the authority to remove the ambassador, but promised he would pass the request on to the cabinet.
The demand was supported by several MPs, but was initiated by MP Mohamed El-Sagheer of the Building and Development Party, the political arm of the ultra-conservative Islamist group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, reported Al-Ahram.
The Shura Council was likely irked by an incident last week, where police officers assaulted Egyptian diplomats and a Coptic priest near the Sepulcher church in the Old City of Jerusalem. The priest needed medical treatment.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin personally apologized to Egypt for the incident, and reports in the Israeli media on Monday indicated that Egypt had accepted the apology.
Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Yaakov Amitai, was summoned last week for an inquiry at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry over the incident.
Last Friday, dozens of Islamist protesters gathered at the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, to denounce recent alleged Israeli airstrikes on Syria and the arrest of the Mufti of Jerusalem. He was questioned and released for suspected involvement in throwing chairs at a group of Jews on the Temple Mount.
Friday’s protest was organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, to which President Mohammed Morsi belongs.
The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed in 1979 between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. It was maintained during President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The rise of Morsi to power, however, has caused concern that the treaty would be amended or cancelled.
While Morsi has repeatedly said he would continue to maintain the peace with Israel and uphold international documents signed by prior Cairo administrations, he has mostly given Israel the cold shoulder since taking office.
In November, Morsi recalled the Egyptian ambassador to Israel in protest of Israel’s counterterrorism Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.
Egypt’s leaders recently assured visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that they are committed to their country’s peace treaty with Israel.