Some deterred by Israeli ambassador's presence at Obama's speech

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
4 Min Read

Cairo: The list of invitees to attend US President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo University today covers the gamut of the Egyptian political arena, but the invitation extended to the Israeli ambassador has led some to decide not to attend.

Chief amongst those who have been extended an invitation to attend the speech is former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, recently released from jail after serving four years in the wake of his campaign bid.

Although having what can best be described as an antagonistic relationship with the regime, his invitation to attend the speech came from the office of the Egyptian president.

“Someone from the office of the Egyptian presidency came over to give me the invitation, Nour told Daily News Egypt, “It is strange but that is what happened. I will be attending.

Invitations are officially sent by both the Sheikh of the Grand Mosque of Al-Azhar, Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, and the President of the Cairo University Hussam Kamel, and contains both their signatures. They also carry the seal of the Egyptian presidency.

For some, however, the invitation extended to the Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Shalom Cohen has meant that they will not be attending.

Head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid has decided not to attend after learning that Cohen will also be there.

“The ambassador is in Egypt against our will so if we have the choice to be in the same place as him or not, we will not go, Eid told Daily News Egypt.

Regarding the attendance of Cohen, spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy Shani Cooper-Zubida told Daily News Egypt, “The Israeli ambassador is part of the diplomatic core and will take part in the historic speech of President Obama at Cairo University. The criticism of his invitation is part of the political game in Egypt.

Though Cohen received the same invitation as everyone else, it was forwarded to him by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Traffic routes will be altered throughout Cairo today during Obama’s visit, which is expected to last until 6 pm before he heads to Germany. Rumors surfaced Wednesday that the venue of Cairo University was merely a smokescreen and that the speech would be held elsewhere.

US Embassy officials denied these rumors and stated that the official schedule of the visit had not yet been released.

The university has undergone somewhat of a makeover in anticipation of Obama’s visit, and a massive cleaning project is underway. However, the disruption of the exam calendar for the visit has upset some of the professors.

Cairo University Professor Laila Soueif told Daily News Egypt, “It wasn’t right for the academic process to be disrupted during the exam period.

However to be honest, many of my colleagues are very happy with the visit and with Obama picking Cairo University.

Soueif also objected to the invitation of the Israeli ambassador, stating, “We all agree that the Israeli ambassador should not be there as we cannot see a reason for him or any other ambassador to be there. This is a speech directed to the Muslim world, why should he be there?

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