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Egypt MP expelled from parliament for meeting Israeli ambassador

MPs overwhelming vote to 'annul' membership of Tawfiq Okasha for discussing a dam project with Haim Koren
The decision came three days after Okasha was hit with a shoe (AFP)

An Egyptian politician and TV talk show host has been expelled from parliament for discussing a dam project with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

The controversy over the meeting began when the ambassador, Haim Koren, posted a picture last week on the embassy's Facebook page of himself and Tawfiq Okasha. 

Okasha's expulsion was decided by an overwhelming majority of MPs in a vote on Wednesday.

Egyptian media outlet Youm7 reported that Okasha's membership of parliament was "annulled".

The parliament's official website said 465 deputies - or more than two-thirds of its members - voted to deprive Okasha of his seat on Wednesday.

"The penalty is not over his meeting with the ambassador of a foreign country, but because of the issues discussed during this meeting, in relation to Egypt's national security," it said.

The issue of the Ethiopian dam is seen in Cairo as a matter of national security.

"He has failed in his duties by inviting a foreign state to interfere to solve the issue of the dam," deputy Khaled Youssef told AFP.

The expulsion came three days after a heavily publicised incident in which an MP hit him with his shoe to protest against the meeting. 

Kamal Ahmad struck Okasha, a controversial television anchor, with his shoe in the assembly amid a group of agitated fellow MPs, television footage showed.

Okasha came under fire after he invited Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, to his home for dinner last week where they discussed Egyptian and Israeli politics.

Okasha talked about his meeting with Koren in an interview in independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, saying the two agreed that Israel "has a key role in the issue of the dam" being built by Ethiopia on the Nile.

Live footage broadcast by private television channel CBC Extra on Sunday showed some MPs escorting an angry Ahmad from the assembly as he waved his shoe.

"I expressed the Egyptian people's opinion. This shoe wasn't just intended for Tawfiq Okasha's face and head, but also for the Knesset and the Zionist entity," Ahmad said in a video posted on the newspaper Al-Shuruq's website.

Parliamentarians said they had called for an internal investigation over the comments made by Okasha, who has previously aired anti-Israeli views.

Before the Wednesday vote, MP Mustafa al-Bakry told AFP: "He has been referred to a special parliamentary committee for his statements, which are insults to parliament, the people and national security."

"We can expect him to lose his membership, which would be the biggest punishment," another MP, Khaled Youssef, told AFP.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel. 

Egypt and Israel closely coordinate on security issues, especially over Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, but directly dealing with Israelis in any field remains a taboo for Egyptians.

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