The Egyptian national Boycotts Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign condemned on Friday the decision by MP Tawfik Okasha to invite Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Chaim Koren to discuss possible Israeli mediation in the Egyptian-Ethiopian conflict over the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam.
The BDS campaign called the meeting a normalisation of Egyptian-Israeli relations, in what is a constant tenet of the group’s international activism. The group vowed to publicise all official and unofficial forms of normalisation.
In statements given to the privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper, Okasha disclosed that he and Koren partook in negotiations regarding the dam in which, in exchange for Israel’s support in the dispute over the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam, Egypt would provide Israel with 1bn cubic metres of Egypt’s supply of the downstream Blue Nile water resources.
However, the Jerusalem Post reported that the terms of the tentative and unofficial agreement stated that Egypt would provide 2bn cubic metres in exchange for diplomatic support.
Al-Watan also reported that Okasha requested that Israel not adhere to the arbitration decision issued by a Swiss court in the proceedings concerning a compensatory payment of EGP 1.76bn related to a shortfall in natural gas supply that was stipulated in a contract between the Egyptian General Petroleum Company and Israeli energy companies. In December 2015, the court order Egypt to pay the amount in full.
In an interview with Army Radio, an Israeli radio station, Koren indicated his surprise at receiving Okasha’s invitation because it deviates from the parliament’s usual anti-normalisation practice; however, he stated that Israel welcomes any initiatives to promote shared interests between Egypt and Israel.
The meeting caused a backlash from a number of political activists who condemned the meeting and described it as a normalisation attempt.
MP Mostafa Bakry filed a demand with Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Al requesting the immediate release of a statement regarding the meeting.
Bakry said that this invitation was against the Egyptian parliament’s stance regarding normalised relations with Israel and disregarded the rights of martyrs who were killed by the “Zionist enemy”.
He further demanded, along with other parliament members, an emergency session on Sunday to inform the public of the parliament’s stance on the invitation.
Political activist Wael Ghoneim pointed to what he claimed was a contradiction in the Egyptian state’s dealing with Egypt. In one sense, he said, the media dismiss the 25 January Revolution as putatively linked to a Zionist conspiracy, while MP Okasha meets with Israeli ambassador and president Al-Sisi hosts Jewish leaders from the United States.
Blogger and activist Zeinobia indicated that Okasha’s involvement with Israel is particularly contradictory as, during the television show he hosts, he has often accused other segments and members of Egyptian society as falling prey to Israeli conspiracies.
Despite the establishment of formal relations in the 1979 Camp David peace treaty, Egyptian activists and political figures have issued calls to resist further normalisation of relations with Israel in other sectors.
Okasha was expelled last week from a parliament session after a scuffle with Parliamentary Speaker Abdel-Al; he was later summoned for investigations by the parliament.