Egyptian MP suspended for hurling shoe at colleague who met Israel envoy

Move comes after lawmaker Tawfik Okasha was permanently banned for inviting ambassador Haim Koren to his home for dinner

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Egyptian television host and parliament member Tawfiq Okasha (YouTube screen capture)
Egyptian television host and parliament member Tawfiq Okasha (YouTube screen capture)

The Egyptian parliament voted Tuesday to punish a lawmaker for throwing a shoe at a colleague because he had met with the Israeli Ambassador to Cairo.

The decision suspends Kamal Ahmed until the end of the 2016 session, according to Egyptian media reports. He will not be able to take part in parliamentary debates or to vote during plenary sessions.

The suspension was due to an incident last week where Ahmed struck fellow parliamentarian Tawfik Okasha with his shoe to protest Okasha’s meeting days earlier with Ambassador Haim Koren.

Okasha, a popular TV talk show host and parliament member, has been engulfed in controversy since Koren posted a picture on the embassy’s Facebook page last month of the two of them meeting over dinner.

Last week, Egypt’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to revoke Okasha’s membership over the incident.

The parliament’s official website said 465 deputies — or more than two-thirds of its members — voted to deprive Okasha of his seat, a much more serious punishment than Ahmed’s.

“The penalty is not over his meeting with the ambassador of a foreign country, but because of the issues discussed during this meeting, in relation to Egypt’s national security,” the website said.

Egypt has full diplomatic relations with Israel, but directly dealing with the Jewish state remains deeply taboo in Egyptian society.

Okasha, who has been previously described by state-run media as “controversial,” publicly — during a broadcast — invited Koren to his house for dinner. Koren agreed, and the two met and discussed politics, trade and agricultural cooperation between the countries.

Okasha, Ahmed said, “deserves 90 million shoes,” according to a translation of his remarks by the Hebrew-language Ynet news website. “I want to shoot him. What I did reflects the nation’s opinion. I did what I did because I am an MP and a representative of the people. Every time I see him, I’ll hit him with a shoe.”

Defending his move, Okasha said he extended the invitation to Koren in the hopes of recruiting Israel as a mediator in Egypt’s dispute with Ethiopia over the latter’s Grand Renaissance Dam, a project Cairo fears will limit its share of Nile River water, the Egyptian Independent reported.

He cited the 1979 peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt, and expressed hope Israel could play a constructive role in settling the ongoing dispute, the report said.

But Okasha went on to express regret for meeting the ambassador, saying he meant to “act in good faith.”

Official relations between Jerusalem and Cairo have been relatively warm since Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi became president of Egypt in July 2013.

Dov Lieber and AP contributed to this report

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