Egypt groups want deals with Israel revoked

CAIRO (AFP) — Israel’s crushing offensive in Lebanon prompted calls by Egyptian opposition groups Wednesday for peace deals with the Jewish state to be revoked and oil and gas exports to be frozen.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the secular Kefaya movement and a group of opposition parties including jailed leader Ayman Nur’s Ghad, rallied in calling for ties with Israel to be frozen.

In a joint statement, a group of ten Egyptian opposition parties demanded that Arab governments “cut all relations with (Israel), freeze all agreements with the enemy and expel ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from all Arab and Islamic countries.” “The Camp David agreement has become nothing more than ink on paper,” Kefaya spokesman George Ishak told AFP, referring to peace agreements between late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin which led to the signing of a full peace treaty in 1979.

In October 1994, Jordan became the second Arab country to normalise ties with Israel. Other Arab countries, like Qatar and Mauritania also have trade relations with the Jewish state. “Arab regimes must take a strong position, they must stop political, diplomatic and economic relations with (Israel),” Mohammed Habib, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood told AFP.

The opposition statement also called on “Arab, Islamic and friendly countries to immediately stop exporting petrol and natural gas.” “It must be done,” said Habib. “It is ludicrous that Arab people are dying, including children, and the regimes continue to deal economically with the enemy.” Last year, Israel agreed to buy Egyptian gas in a $2.5-billion deal which provides for 1.7 billion cubic metres of gas annually over 15 years.

“We want to see all forms of sanctions against Israel,” Ishak chimed in. “We don’t want agreements with Israel, we don’t want relations with Israel.” The Egyptian regime, which has been the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel since signing the peace deal, has been under constant pressure from opposition parties over its dealings with the Jewish state.

Opposition newspapers reacted angrily when Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia blamed Hizbollah’s “adventurism” for the latest crisis, which has left close to 300 Lebanese dead in a week.

Israel launched a massive land, sea and air offensive against Lebanon after the Shiite militia Hizbollah — which is backed by Syria and Iran — captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a July 12 border attack. Meanwhile the Israeli military also continued to pummel the Gaza Strip, following the capture on June 25 of another Israeli soldier by three groups, including the armed wing of the governing Hamas.

Demonstrations have been organised in several Arab countries, including in Egypt, condemning the Israeli assault and expressing support for Hizbollah and its firebrand leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The spiralling Middle East conflict forced Arab leaders into an admission of impotence after the Arab League declared the peace process “dead” at an emergency meeting Saturday.

In early July, even before the attacks on Lebanon, Egyptian MPs warned that Israel’s offensive in Gaza could threaten the 1979 peace treaty.

“Israel should not think that the peace reached with an Arab country can be guaranteed while it continues to perpetrate its crimes and aggression,” Mustafa Fekki, the head of parliament’s foreign committee, told AFP.

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