Morsi’s Salafist adviser: ‘We have no problem with the peace with Israel’

Relations with Israel should proceed as normal, only with more Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, Emad Abdel Ghafour tells The Times of Israel

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Emad Abdel Ghafour speaking at the World Economic Forum, May 25, 2013 (photo credit: Youtube image/WEF)
Emad Abdel Ghafour speaking at the World Economic Forum, May 25, 2013 (photo credit: Youtube image/WEF)

DEAD SEA, Jordan — A Salafist adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Sunday that he “had no problem” with the Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt, but added that the number of Egyptian soldiers allowed to enter the Sinai Peninsula under the agreement must be increased.

Emad Abdel Ghafour, head of the Salafist Al-Watan party and adviser to President Morsi on social outreach, told The Times of Israel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum that relations between Israel and Egypt were progressing “as they should.”

The 1978 Camp David Accords signed between Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat are continuously challenged in Egypt, with much of the fire coming from the Islamic right.

That fact makes Abdel Ghafour’s statements to an Israeli publication all the more unusual.

Egyptian outrage towards Israel focuses on the security provisions pertaining to the Sinai Peninsula, which ban any Egyptian military presence within a 20-40 kilometer (12-24 mile) strip to the west of the border with Israel, while allowing for a “limited” Israeli presence of up to four infantry battalions within a narrower strip of three kilometers (1.8 miles).

When Egypt launched Operation Eagle in August 2012 following a terrorist attack in northern Sinai, it asked and received Israel’s permission to deploy thousands of Egyptian troops in the Sinai, backed by armored personnel carriers and attack helicopters.

But Abdel Ghafour said that verbal agreements between military commanders on soldier deployment were insufficient; the accords themselves must be officially amended to allow for more Egyptian boots on the ground and “ensure the security situation.” The exact number of Egyptian soldiers permitted to enter Sinai should be agreed upon by security officials on both sides, he said.

Abdel Ghafour resigned as founder and head of the Nour party — which won a quarter of the seats in the Egyptian parliament in the 2011 elections — and founded Al-Watan in January 2013.

“We want Al-Watan party to be an effective contributor in building a realm of dignity and social justice. We want the Islamic Sharia to be a reality we can live in, not rhetoric anymore,” Abdel Ghafour said at his party’s launch.

Responding to a decision by Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court to ban political slogans in election propaganda, Abdel Ghafour said that a distinction must be made between explicit religious promises, such as the promise to win heaven in return for voting for a certain party, and more neutral words such as “justice” which could be misconstrued as religious.


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