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13 Mar, 2012 17:25

Friends no more? Egypt’s MPs declare Israel No. 1 enemy

Egypt calls Israel its number one enemy, saying it will “revise all its relations and agreements” with Tel Aviv. In a protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza, Egyptian MPs have voted to expel Israel's Ambassador in Cairo, and to halt gas exports.

"Egypt will never be the friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity [Israel] which we consider as the first enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation," reads the text of a report prepared by the Arab Affairs Committee of the People's Assembly,  the lower house of Egyptian parliament.  The resolution was passed on Monday night with the majority of the country's Islamist-dominated 508-seat chamber voting in favor of halting of gas exports in protest against Israel’s attacks on Gaza.Egyptian MPs also called on the government “to revise all its relations and agreements with that enemy,” referring to Israel. According to the approved text, MPs suggest the expulsion of Israel's Ambassador to Egypt and a recall of the Egyptian Ambassador from Tel Aviv. Monday’s vote is said to serve as an indication of how relations between two countries may wrap up next.There has been no official comment from Israel on the vote so far.The vote is seen as largely symbolic as only the ruling Military Council, the country’s current government, can make such decisions.Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, after intense negotiation. However, since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year and the new government came to power, the treaty became one of its concerns. Egypt’s new parliament, in which half of the seats are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, has several times threatened to cancel the agreement.Former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel has told RT that something is wrong in the parliament, if MPs from “a great country like Egypt” approve such statements. “Israel is a friend of Egypt. We did nothing wrong to Egypt since the peace treaty was signed,” Mazel said. The only reason for such statements, Mazel says, is “fanaticism and hatred.”“There is no other explanation to such a statement,” he said. “It is nonsense.”Meanwhile, Egypt has brokered a ceasefire between Israel and the insurgent groups based in Gaza. It went into effect during the early hours on Tuesday.But despite that, there were reports of continued shelling of Israel and retaliatory air strikes on the Gaza Strip.During four days of violence, 25 Palestinians were killed and 200 rockets were fired at Israel. Twenty of those killed were militants and the other five civilians, according to medical officials. At least 80 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were reported wounded.Egypt had earlier condemned Israel's attacks. "We are against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, as they violate the settled cease-fire between the parties," said Egyptian Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority Yasser Othman on March 10.

‘Two-faced Egypt’

Yaakov Lappin, a journalist for the Jerusalem Post, believes the vote is a road sign for future relations between Israel and Egypt. “The more Islamists take power in Egypt, the worse relations will get between the two countries because Islamists have never had an interest in peace and fruitful cooperation with Israel,” he noted in an interview with RT. “They’ve only been interested in damaging Israel, and actually seeking its destruction in their overall ideology.”  Lappin also sees the vote as an indicator of the political situation in Egypt itself. “Egypt is speaking to us with two faces right now,” he said. “On the one hand, you have this growing Islamist political representation, which is causing relations to deteriorate, but on the other hand, you have the old guard, the military, the ruling Military Council, which still has control of all the important political decisions.”The fact that the reins of power are still in the hands of the military means that the vote is symbolic – nothing practical is will probably come out of it, Lappin noted.   “This Military Council is interested in keeping relations with Israel as they are: good, fruitful relations,” he said. “These are the people who helped broker the ceasefire between Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations in Israel. These are the people interested in keeping the region on a footpath to stability.” Lappin recalled that Israel was always against an abrupt transition from a dictatorial system to democracy, as it saw that as a path strewn with danger, and instead preferred a gradual process. “And now we’ve seen that if you suddenly lift the lid in a country in which Islamists have been operating for decades, the Islamists are going to come to power,” he noted, speaking of Egypt. “It doesn’t spell good news for the short term.”