An Egyptian lawmaker has thrown a shoe at a parliamentary colleague who hosted a dinner with the Israeli ambassador. The incident has raised questions about the cold relationship between the neighboring countries.
Egyptian lawmaker Kamal Ahmad expressed outrage at fellow parliamentarian Tawfiq Okasha by hitting him with his shoe, which is considered an insult in the Arab world.
Okasha had made headline news last week after Israeli Ambassador Haim Koren tweeted a picture from a private meeting with the lawmaker. Egypt has full diplomatic relations with Israel, but dealing with Israelis directly is still frowned upon in the North African nation. Okasha, who is also known as a popular TV talk show anchor, is alleged to have hosted the Israeli ambassador at his private home, where they reportedly discussed Egyptian and Israeli politics.
Sunday's parliamentary session had to be adjourned for 10 minutes as the two lawmakers were expelled from the building. The MENA news agency reported that the Egyptian parliament decided to form a special committee to investigate Okasha's visit with Korem. Some lawmakers have said that the probe could result in Okasha losing his seat in the assembly.
'The shoe of the people'
Okasha had publicly announced a week before the meeting took place that he had invited the ambassador to have dinner with him at his home. He later relayed details from the meeting with Koren in the Egyptian daily newspaper "Al-Masry Al-Youm," saying that the two had discussed details regarding a dam being built by Ethiopia on the Nile River.
Cairo fears that the Grand Renaissance Dam may cut into Egypt's share of the Nile waters. Okasha explained that both parties had agreed that Israel held "a key role in the issue of the dam," although many Egyptians believe that Israel is supporting the dam to harm Egypt's interests.
Kamal Ahmad meanwhile defended his actions, saying he had merely "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. Although Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, ties between the two nations have been formally cold over Israel's policies towards Palestinians.
Egyptian MP Osama Sharshar also defended the shoe-throwing incident, saying that the shoe represented "the Egyptian people's rejection to normalization with Israel."
The Israeli mission in Cairo described the meeting between Okasha and Koren as "successful."
"The two parties agreed on staying in touch and pursuing cooperation," it said in a statement.
ss/jlw (AFP, AP)