El-Erian says Al-Hayat misquoted him, confirms Brotherhood position on Israel

El-Erian says Al-Hayat misquoted him, confirms Brotherhood position on Israel

Prominent Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member Essam El-Erian denied telling the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the group would recognize the state of Israel and cooperate with it once the MB reaches power, raising the ire of leading members of the Islamist group.

El-Erian, who belongs to the Brotherhood’s political bureau and is the group’s spokesman, told Daily News Egypt that Al-Hayat misquoted him, a claim denied by the Cairo bureau of the pan-Arab daily which said they only printed what El-Erian had told them.

“The Brotherhood’s position vis-a-vis the Israeli occupation is crystal clear and has been the same for ages and will never change; we are totally against their occupation of our Arab lands and we condemn Israel’s treatment of Palestinians,” El-Erian said.

“In Al-Hayat newspaper I was referring to the Egyptian government’s peace treaties, but my words were misplaced and misinterpreted,” El-Erian said.

He explained that although the Egyptian government has signed a peace treaty with Israel, it does not accept its policies, nor does it normalize relations on all levels.

Unlike what Al-Hayat implied, El-Erian does not want the Egyptian government to fulfill the promises made in the peace treaty with Israel. His misplaced comments were in the context of criticizing the government’s strategy of signing treaties that it cannot fulfill, he explained.

According to El-Erian, the Egyptian government, like any democracy, should either stick to the treaties it signs or cancel them. This would entail a public referendum and the approval of the People’s Assembly.

“My opinion on Israel was an example of how the government should respect the Egyptian citizen and the constitution and not sign treaties that its people do not accept,” El-Erian said.

Mohamed Salah, Al-Hayat”s Cairo bureau chief told Daily News Egypt that El-Erian would be a “liar” if he denied what he told Al-Hayat a week ago.

Oct. 13 Al-Hayat newspaper published a long interview with El-Erian in which it quoted El-Erian as saying that if the Muslim Brotherhood are to come to power “they would recognize Israel and accept the treaties.”

“But the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel will have to be revised. We will not declare war on Israel but changes must be made to guarantee more benefits for our country,” Al-Hayat quoted El-Erian as saying.

In response to the article, MB members criticized El-Erian’s statements in the local press. 

Five days later, Al-Hayat published an interview with Mohamed Mahdy Akef, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, who said that any member of the group is free to express his opinion with regard to different issues. But “the final decision is only in the hands of the group’s Supreme Guide.”

Akef added that “the Brotherhood does not and will never recognize Israel … Israel does not exist in the Brotherhood’s dictionary.”

Mohamed Habib, Deputy Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Daily News Egypt that El-Erian has denied making any statements about the group recognizing Israel.

“I do not know to what extent the news published in Al-Hayat newspaper is correct.  But what I know for sure is that the Brotherhood’s opinion in that regard is final and will never change,” Habib said.

Salah of Al-Hayat, however, confirmed that El-Erian said “every word” the newspaper published. “It is not the first time that El-Erian is interviewed by Al-Hayat newspaper, he [El-Erian] also sometimes writes for it.”

“A newspaper as big and  as popular as Al-Hayat does not publish wrong information or make up quotes and El-Erian knows that very well,” Salah added.

According to Salah, El-Erian was forced to retract his statement when reports in the local press turned public opinion and Brotherhood members against him.

 “Akef’s reaction to El-Erian’s statement put even moree pressure on El-Erian to take back what he said,” Salah said.

If El-Erian was misquoted, said Salah, he would have asked for a correction right after the article was published and would not have waited “for a whole week.”

 “El-Erian is only responding to the press by changing his opinion to fight the attacks that were launched against him,” said Salah, adding that El-Erian had called Al-Hayat newspaper on Friday Oct. 19 at 2:30 pm to discuss the quotes attributed to him but did not demand a printed correction.

El-Erian and nine other members of the MB group were released a few weeks ago when a court repealed a public prosecutor’s decision to detain them pending an investigation into the charge of belonging to an illegal organization.