Outrage in Egypt parliament after MP hosts Israeli envoy

Cairo (AFP) –


Egyptian lawmakers expressed outrage Sunday at their colleague Tawfiq Okasha for hosting the Israeli ambassador to dinner, and one hit him with a shoe -- an insult in the Arab world.

Lawmaker Kamal Ahmad struck Okasha, a controversial television anchor, with his shoe in the assembly amid a group of agitated lawmakers, television footage showed.

Okasha came under fire after he invited Israel's ambassador to Cairo, Haim Koren, to his home for dinner last week where they discussed Egyptian and Israeli politics.

Okasha talked about his meeting with Koren in an interview in independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, saying the two agreed that Israel "has a key role in the issue of the dam" being built by Ethiopia on the Nile.

Live footage broadcast by private television channel CBC Extra on Sunday showed some lawmakers escorting an angry Ahmad from the assembly as he waved his shoe.

"I expressed the Egyptian people's opinion. This shoe wasn't just intended for Tawfiq 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.

Lawmakers said they had called for an internal investigation over the comments made by Okasha, who has previously aired anti-Israeli views.

"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.

The parliament said on its website it had also called for an investigation into the incident involving Ahmad.

Although Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, their ties have been formally cold over Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

Egypt's political elite remains hostile to any normalisation of ties with Israel.

Relations between the two further soured after the June 2012 election of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi as Egyptian president.

Morsi was ousted in July 2013 by then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected president in 2014.

In September 2015, Israel opened a new embassy in Cairo, four years after protesters stormed its mission following the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

The Israeli mission in Cairo, meanwhile, has described the Koren-Okasha meeting as "successful".

"The two parties agreed on staying in touch and pursuing cooperation," it said in a statement on Thursday.