Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Sunday that Israel’s actions against Palestinians does not constitute terrorism, eliciting an angry response from a Hamas spokesman who said Egypt’s top diplomat is blind.
Shoukry’s comments came during a Q&A session with students held at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, where he was asked why Palestinians children killed in the conflict with Israel were not considered victims of terrorism.
“When looking at this issue, it can be defined as a ‘regime of force,’” the Egyptian media quoted Shoukry as saying. He said there was no evidence to link Israel to terrorist organizations.
“There is nothing that leads to this conclusion,” he said.
Shoukry added that Israel’s history has made it very sensitive to security issues, and as a result tightens control over its territory and border crossings to ensure its security.
Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson in Qatar, slammed the Egyptian foreign minister in a Twitter post, saying, “He who does not see the crimes of the Zionist occupation as terrorism is blind.”
Egyptian foreign minister visits Jerusalem to push Cairo-backed diplomatic process
Last month Shoukry became the first Egyptian foreign minister to visit Israel since 2007, in a visit that was kept secret from the public until the last minute.
A diplomatic official said that visit indicated a growing willingness on Egypt’s part to make public its strong relationship with Israel, and that his comments on Sunday were “yet another indication of the good health of our relations with Egypt.”
According to the official, the Egyptian government realizes that Israel is “not the enemy,” and is now more willing to say it publicly.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to the home of Egypt’s ambassador to Israel last month on that country’s national day, for the first time since 2009, was yet another indication of subtle changes taking place in the public atmosphere between the two countries.
Netanyahu, however, said last week that decades of incitement against Israel in Egypt had been behind Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shehaby’s refusal to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Ori Sasson, at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Shoukry’s comment also stands in stark contrast to an incident in March, when Egyptian MP Tawfik Okasha was kicked out of parliament in a vote by his peers, after he met with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt and called for normalizing ties with the Jewish state.Adam Rasgon and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.