|Al Nour spokesman Yusri Hammad
(EOZ) From AP:
The spokesman of Egypt’s ultraconservative Islamist party told Israeli Army Radio in unprecedented remarks broadcast Wednesday that the group is not opposed to the country’s historic peace treaty with Israel.
Yousseri Hamad’s interview with the Israeli broadcaster is unusual for followers of the Salafi Islamic trend, who typically shun Israel for its policies toward Palestinians and its annexation of east Jerusalem, home to Islam’s third-holiest site.
The interview countered Israeli fears that Islamist parties would seek to cut ties with Israel.
In his remarks to the Israeli station, Hamad said the Salafi Nour Party is committed to agreements signed by previous Egyptian governments, including the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
“We are not opposed to the agreement, and we are saying that Egypt is committed to the agreements that previous Egyptian government have signed,” he said, noting that if Egyptians want changes on the treaty, “the place for that is the negotiation table.”
In response to the interview, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the comments were worth considering.
“This is certainly food for thought and we will of course keep observing very attentively developments in Egypt,” he said.
Salafi Muslims follow a strict interpretation of Islam similar to that practiced in Saudi Arabia. The Salafi Nour Party in Egypt has so far won a quarter of the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, placing it second only to the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.
After the interview aired, Hamad told The Associated Press that he did not know he was talking to Israeli Army Radio, and he was told only it was for an Israeli broadcaster. He claimed that had he known, he would not have agreed to the Army Radio interview because “they occupy our Palestinian brothers.”
He also said that his party “without doubt” supports changes to the agreement, including raising troop levels in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel. He also said that there need to be guarantees for Palestinians.
“We call for full Sinai rights for Egypt and for our brothers in Palestine and occupied lands, and we see this as directly related to the agreement,” he told the AP.
Al Ahram’s account contradicts AP’s:
Hammad, however, later said he had been “ambushed” by the Israeli reporter that conducted the interview, who, says Hammad, had introduced himself as an Iraqi journalist.
The interview had prompted surprise in Israel – and outrage in Egypt – that a member of Egypt’s hard-line Salafist movement would grant an interview to an Israeli media outlet, especially one associated with the military.
He made the same claim to Al Arabiya:
Hammad told Al Arabiya.net that he received an anonymous phone call and when he started the conversation with the caller, the Israeli journalist at first presented himself as an Iraqi one and spoke with him in Arabic.
“If I knew [the caller being a journalist from the Isareli army radio station], I would not have talked to him,” he said, adding “this is a media deceit and I reject such approach.”
The spokesman said only at the end of the interview the journalist said that he is Israeli.
Speaking of Nour, Hudson-NY has a must-read piece saying that the party isn’t really Salafi – but Wahhabi.