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Mursi’s letter to Peres still causing controversy

But some analysts said it is a protocol letter and the wording is standard

Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi
Image Credit: Reuters
In a letter, Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi described Israel's Shimon Peres as his “great and good friend”.
Gulf News

Dubai: The controversy created by Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi’s letter to the Israeli leadership continues to rage days after it was leaked.

The letter, in which Mursi described Shimon Peres as his “great and good friend”, was harshly criticised by some Egyptians as “patriotic and nationalist treason”. Also, many Palestinians expressed their regret over the friendly and warm tone of the letter, which they said “didn’t match with Peres’ aggressive history”.

But some Egyptian analysts believe the reaction came off somehow exaggerated, even though Mursi’s cordial wordings and recognition of Israel, contradicts his public actions.

“This is a protocol letter,” said Egyptian political scientist at Cairo University Mustafa Al Sayed. “It should be written in a polite way and should have a minimum level of courtesy,” he told Gulf News.

The letter, he added, doesn’t mean a change in Egypt’s policy towards Israel, noting that there are no bilateral official meetings, other than those between security officials. Also, there are no plans for any visit by an Egyptian official to Israel.

Meanwhile, some analysts, including Sayed, believed the letter would have raised eyebrows even it was sent by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who had good relations with Israel.

But “undoubtedly, the surprise was bigger when the letter came from President Mursi, whose political ideology and the positions of his political party are against Israel.”

Earlier on Monday, Ahmad Al Hemrawi, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), announced his resignation “because of the letter which was not rejected or disowned by either the brotherhood or the party” said Egyptian Arabic-language newspaper Al Masry Al Youm on Monday.

“This confirms the existence of secret relations and undisclosed agreements going on between the Brotherhood and Israel away from the eyes of people and the Brotherhood’s youth. I reject this and therefore I announce my resignation from the brotherhood,” Al Hemrawi, former head of lawyers’ syndicate in Alexandria, said in his announcement.

Mursi’s letter, which is dated July 19, was reportedly handed to the Israeli president by the newly-appointed Egyptian Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Atef Salem, at an official ceremony in the presidential residence.

However, former assistant to Foreign Minister Hani Khalaf was quoted as saying by Al Ahram Arabic news website that “the letter is not specially worded for Israel. There is a template for such letters that is not amended with the change of officials, administrations or the country to which the letter is sent.”

“As it is all routine procedures, the letter might come out of the foreign ministry to the general bureau without the president checking it,” added Khalaf.

Former Egyptian ambassadors also shared the same opinion, showing similar worded letters when they were appointed to other countries, analysts noted.

Khalaf’s statement came after a Brotherhood leader said the letter, which was published online by the Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel, is fabricated. Jamal Heshmat told Egyptian media “Israeli newspapers have gotten accustomed to fabricating and incorrectly quoting President Mursi’s speeches since his election.”

According to the English translation of the letter, which was also posted by the Israeli press next to the Arabic version, Mursi addressed Peres as “Great and Good Friend”.

“Being desirous of maintaining and strengthening the cordial relations which so happily exist between our two countries, I have selected Mr. Atef Mohamed Salem Sayed El Ahl to be our ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary,” read the letter.

The Egyptian president also expressed to Peres his “sincere wishes for your happiness and for the prosperity of your country”. He closed his letter by expressing “highest esteem and consideration.”

“Where is their country,Your Excellency Mursi?” asked Palestinian poet Mureed Barghouti.