Israeli ambassador invites any Egyptian to talk with him
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Israeli ambassador invites any Egyptian to talk with him

As Cairo MP is ousted for having hosted him for dinner, Haim Koren says: ‘We welcome anyone who wants to set up a meeting with us’

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Israel's Ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren talks to BBC Arabic's Akram Shaban, March 1, 2016, in a photo posted on the Israeli Embassy's Facebook page. (Courtesy: Facebook)
Israel's Ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren talks to BBC Arabic's Akram Shaban, March 1, 2016, in a photo posted on the Israeli Embassy's Facebook page. (Courtesy: Facebook)

The Israeli ambassador to Egypt said Wednesday morning that he would meet with any Egyptian citizen who wishes to organize a meeting with the embassy. He made the offer in an Arabic-language video posted to the embassy’s website.

At the start of the video, Ambassador Haim Koren said that he has already held a number of successful meetings with Egyptian journalists.

The Israel ambassador did not shy away from mentioning his controversial meeting with Egyptian TV host and MP Tawfiq Okasha, who hosted him for dinner last week.

The Egyptian parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to strip Okasha of his parliamentary membership for having hosted the Israeli envoy.

MP Tawfik Okasha (left) is prevented from entering the Egyptian parliamentary chamber on March 2, 2016 (AlMasry AlYoum screenshot)
MP Tawfik Okasha (left) is prevented from entering the Egyptian parliamentary chamber on March 2, 2016 (AlMasry AlYoum screenshot)

Koren said he knew the meeting with Okasha had “sparked debate and controversy within Egypt.”

“Nevertheless,” said the Israeli diplomat, “as an embassy and staff, we welcome anyone who wants to set up a meeting with us. We would be happy to do this. It is incumbent upon us to accept others’ opinions in order to establish economic, cultural and social relations between the two countries.”

On Sunday evening, Koren said on Israel’s Channel 10 television that he meets with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and members of his government regularly.

“Both countries have a shared interest in fighting terror organizations such as the Islamic State and Hamas,” he said.

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

In September 2015, Israel reopened its embassy in Egypt after it was shuttered for four years.

Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold attends a ceremony marking the reopening of Israel's embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on Wednesday, September 9, 2015 (Foreign Ministry)
Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold attends a ceremony marking the reopening of Israel’s embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on Wednesday, September 9, 2015 (Foreign Ministry)

Last week, Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, hailed the increased bilateral relations, expressing hope that the two countries’ “constructive” relationship would bring peace to the region.

Egypt's new ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, February 25, 2016 (Mark Neiman/GPO)
Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, February 25, 2016 (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Khairat is Cairo’s first senior emissary to Israel since 2012.

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