Egyptian presidential hopefuls Amr Moussa (R)
Egyptian presidential hopefuls Amr Moussa (R)Reuters

Egypt’s top presidential contenders promised on Thursday they would review the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979 if elected.

The two candidates, former foreign minister and Arab League Chief Amr Moussa and former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, spoke during a televised debate, the first such debate in Egypt’s history.

During the debate, which lasted for seven hours, Abul-Fotouh called Israel an “enemy country” and expressed anger when Moussa refused to do the same and chose to simply refer to Israel as a “rival.”

Abul-Fotouh claimed during the debate that then-President Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty with then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, sold Egypt in the peace agreement with Israel and said that the relations with the Jewish State should be re-examined once every few years.

Moussa, for his part, said that most of the Egyptian people see Israel as an enemy “but the president needs to act wisely.” Both agreed that after the election, the president-elect will have to review the treaty with Israel.

Earlier this month, Moussa criticized the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and said that “the Camp David accords were dead and buried long ago.”

“The Camp David agreements do not exist anymore,” he said. “They are an historic document whose place is on the shelf. The purpose of the agreement with Israel was to establish an independent Palestinian government, whereas today we are talking about an independent Palestinian state.”

He stressed, however, that “as long as Israel respects the peace treaty with Egypt we will do so as well, even though the primary document which governs the relationship between Israel and the Arabs is the Arab initiative of 2002.”

Channel 10 News reported that both candidates warned Egyptians against voting for the other. Moussa accused Abul-Fotouh of “saying different things to different people” and claimed that he is more extreme than he presents himself to be.

“With Salafists he is a Salafi, with liberals he is liberal, and with the centrists he is in the center,” Moussa was quoted as having said. Towards the end of the debate he called on citizens not to vote for Abul-Fotouh, saying that “his views are unclear” and accusing him of “falsifying history.”

“I hate to say it, but we must warn the people of Egypt,” Moussa was quoted as having said. “The next president needs to have certain qualifications to lead the country.” In response, Abul-Fotouh said that electing Moussa would take Egypt a step backwards.

“This is the first time we are electing a president for Egypt,” he said. “I hope that we do not allow ourselves to be led backwards, to the regime which has fallen, its idea, its principles and its people.”

In a mock election held at the Cairo University this week, Abul-Fotouh won the support of 50.9 percent of participating students, while Moussa came in fourth place with only 5.3 percent of the votes.

A recently released poll found that Moussa was leading the race with 41.1 percent of the votes. Abul-Fotouh came in second with 27.3 percent of the votes.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)