Egyptian lawmaker sacked after meeting Israeli envoy
A controversial Egyptian lawmaker and popular TV talk show host was expelled from parliament Wednesday over a meeting he had with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.
The controversy began after Tawfiq Okasha hosted the Israeli ambassador, Haim Koren, at his house for dinner last week, after which Koren posted a picture of the meeting on the embassy's Facebook page.
Okasha's expulsion from the 596-seat legislature was decided in a vote Wednesday by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers and came three days after another lawmaker hit him with his shoe inside the chamber to protest his meeting with Koren.
A total of 490 lawmakers took part in the vote, with 465 supporting the motion to kick him out. Sixteen voted against and nine abstained.
Among those who voted against Okasha's expulsion was lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, a nephew of the late Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, who signed the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Okasha, who has a reputation for making outlandish statements, was kept out of the chamber during the vote.
He declined to speak to reporters when he left the building with the vote almost completed. Speaker Ali Abdel-Al, with whom Okasha has had several run-ins, declared his seat vacant.
Abdel-Al, said Okasha was not expelled for meeting the Israeli ambassador but for discussing issues related to national security such as the construction of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Abdel-Al told lawmakers several times during Wednesday's lengthy parliamentary session that Egypt respected the country's diplomatic commitments, including the peace treaty with Israel.
Lawmakers who supported Okasha's expulsion said he was punished for meeting with a foreign diplomat without the legislature's authorization or advance coordination with "relevant" agencies.
"He has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a deputy or the legislature," said lawmaker Ahmed Nashaat Mansour.
Okasha said he met with Koren in order to serve Egypt's interests, and that they discussed the Grand Renaissance Dam being built by Ethiopia, which Egypt fears will cut into its share of the Nile.
Egypt and Israel closely coordinate on security issues, particularly those having to do with the Sinai Peninsula, which is torn by an insurgency waged by Islamist militants.
Hardly a week goes by without Israeli security officials flying to Cairo to meet with their Egyptian counterparts.