• December 18, 2005

Egyptians must vote on 1979 treaty

Egyptians must vote on 1979 treaty

Egyptians must vote on 1979 treaty

 

CAIRO: The leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called for the country’s peace treaty with Israel to be submitted to a referendum and described the Jewish state as a “cancer” in the region. “I declared that we will not recognize Israel which is an alien entity in the region. And we expect the demise of this cancer soon,” Mohammad Mehdi Akef told the state-owned English language Ahram Weekly in an interview published Thursday.

Egypt became the first Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel when it signed a peace treaty in 1979.

But Islamists opposed to the treaty assassinated president Anwar Sadat in 1981 for signing the Camp David accord.

Akef stopped short of demanding the peace treaty be scrapped butsuggested it should be submitted to a popular vote. “That is for the people to decide … If I had the power I would put it to the people,” he said.

The banned but tolerated Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in the 454-strong Parliament in month-long elections that wrapped up last week, making it the largest opposition bloc in the house.

Following the unprecedented electoral gains, the United States hinted it might open channels of communication with the Brotherhood,which continues to be anxious about U.S. support for Israel.

“The Muslim Brothers do not recognize Israel. 70 million Egyptians, 300 million citizens in the Arab world and 1.5 billion Muslims across the world do not recognize Israel,” Akef said in another interview with the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published on Sunday.

Most Egyptians are opposed to the development of stronger ties with Israel, particularly because of its continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Professional unions have expelled members for visiting the Jewish state and the Culture Ministry maintains a ban on Israeli participation at international events it hosts such as the Cairo book fair and cinema festival. Agriculture remains the only sector that has seen close cooperation between Egypt and Israel, with a regular exchange of visits by officials and experts.

Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv in 2000 in protest at Israel’s handling of the Palestinian intifada or uprising and appointed a new envoy only a few months ago. Founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamic movement in Egypt.

The group was banned in 1954 after a failed a attempt on the life of then president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who brutally suppressed the Brotherhood. The movement, which renounced violence in the 1970s, says it wants to establish a moderate Islamist state in Egypt and has in recent months tried to assuage concerns of the country’s