CAIRO Egyptian lawmaker Tawfik Okasha was attacked in parliament on Sunday, with one colleague hurling a shoe at him and others demanding he be suspended after he invited the Israeli ambassador for dinner.
Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel with a United States-sponsored 1979 peace accord, but Egyptian attitudes to the country’s neighbor remain icy.
Israel has an ambassador stationed in Cairo but Egyptian officials make a point of keeping their distance and the embassy has been the focal point of protests in the past.
Okasha, a television presenter and lawmaker known for courting controversy, hosted the Israeli ambassador Haim Koren for dinner at his home in the northeastern Dakahlia province last week. He made the invitation live on his television show.
The move sparked outrage in the media and in Egypt’s parliament, sworn in last month, with several lawmakers demanding Okasha be dismissed from parliament and one colleague, Kamal Ahmed, hurling his shoe during the session in a fit of anger.
The speaker threw both Ahmed and Okasha out of the session, according to the parliament website.
Over 100 parliament members have also signed a statement seen by Reuters rejecting normalization of ties with Israel and demanding an investigation into Okasha’s actions.
Okasha told local media before the opening of Sunday’s session that he had done nothing wrong since Egypt enjoys full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Koren confirmed to Reuters that he and his staff had a three-hour dinner meeting at the Egyptian lawmaker’s home on Wednesday evening.
“He proposed the meeting, at which he raised ideas of us helping Egypt in the areas of water, agriculture and education – to try to set up a number of schools with Israeli training,” Koren told Reuters by telephone.
“I offered to work on putting this together, and that we meet again. I will soon be inviting him over to our place. He showed great courage. He knew he would be attacked, and nonetheless he stood firm on his convictions.”
(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Ros Russell)