Egyptian MP attacked with shoe in parliament

MP throws shoe at lawmaker Tawfik Okasha and others demand he be dismissed, over 'crime' of meeting with Israeli ambassador.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 2/28/2016, 4:18 PM / Last Update: 2/28/2016, 5:38 PM

Egyptian parliament (archive)
Egyptian parliament (archive)
Reuters

Egyptian MP Tawfik Okasha came under attack in parliament on Sunday, with one lawmaker throwing a shoe at him in a traditional Arab insult and others demanding his suspension.

The MP's "crime"? Last Wednesday he invited Israeli ambassador Haim Koren to dinner at his home in northeastern Dakahlia province, where the two discussed issues pertaining to Israel and Egypt - two states that have ostensibly been "peace partners" since signing an agreement in 1979.

Okasha, who is also a TV presenter, made the invitation to the dinner live on his TV show, reports Reuters.

In response the Egyptian media and parliament went into a fury over the meeting with the Israeli. During Sunday's parliament session several MPs demanded Okasha be dismissed, and MP Kamal Ahmed furiously threw his shoe at his colleague.

Ahmed was thrown out of the session by the parliament speaker, but so was Okasha according to the parliament website.

"I expressed the Egyptian people's opinion. This shoe wasn't just intended for Tawfik Okasha's face and head, but also for the Knesset and the Zionist entity," Ahmad said in a video posted on the newspaper Al-Shuruq's website.

Indicating the extent of Egyptian animosity towards Israel, Reuters reported having seen a statement signed by over 100 Egyptian MPs rejecting a normalization of ties with the Jewish state, and demanding that Okasha be investigated.

Ironically Okasha reportedly has aired anti-Israeli views in the past.

"He has been referred to a special parliamentary committee for his statements, which are insults to parliament, the people and national security," lawmaker Mustafa al-Bakry told AFP.

"We can expect him to lose his membership, which would be the biggest punishment," another lawmaker, Khaled Youssef, told AFP.

Okasha defended the meeting earlier on Sunday, pointing out the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the fact that there are diplomatic relations between the two states.

Israel's ambassador Koren told the news site that he had indeed met with Okasha at his home last Wednesday evening for three hours.

"He 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 said.

"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."

Despite the peace treaty, Egypt has played a key role in launching diplomatic attacks on Israel at the UN and in other forums. A recent poll found that Egyptians see Israel as the "most hostile" of their neighbors, despite the treaty.

In 2013, the movement that led the opposition to former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi said it would target the peace treaty with Israel, by collecting signatures to a petition calling for its cancellation.

On the other hand, under the rule of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi relations between Cairo and Jerusalem have strengthened, both in the realm of security coordination and in the diplomatic arena.

In a symbolically important move, the Egyptian education system was recently updated to include the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in the national curriculum.