CAIRO: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s choice for the next Israeli ambassador to Egypt has sparked debate in the Israeli media and among government officials who criticize it as a political appointment that will hinder relations with Israel’s largest neighbor.
Israeli media reported on Friday that Lieberman, an outspoken conservative, appointed Shaul Kamisa to head the 30-year-old delegation to Cairo.
The appointee, a member of Lieberman’s right-wing political party, has no background in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is currently under investigation for bribery relating to a failed Mayoral campaign in 2008, according to YNETNews.
Kamisa was previously the mayor of a town in the Upper Galilee and served as an intelligence officer with the Israel Defense Forces.
But Foreign Ministry officials have expressed concern that the possible ambassador will not be well-received in Cairo. According to Haaretz, a memo has been circulating among members of the Foreign Ministry saying that Egypt-Israeli relations are as important as ever and the choice of Kamisa could prove detrimental.
Former ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel told YNETNews that he believed the position was best suited for someone with diplomatic experience within the Foreign Ministry. Critics have noted that the appointee does not speak Arabic, and has limited background in Islam or Egyptian culture.
Some members of the Israeli media were equally unreceptive of the appointee. Journalist Ron Ben-Yishai considered the choice to be politically motivated.
“Avigdor Lieberman did not refrain from appointing a wheeler-dealer from the second or third tier of Israeli politics for our ambassador to Cairo as an indirect way of telling Egypt what he thinks of them, Ben-Yishai wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely circulated newspaper.
Lieberman has had a history of icy remarks directed towards the Egyptians.
Last year, he said that President Hosni Mubarak could “go to hell if he continued to refuse visiting Israel.
But recent relations between the two nations have been strong. In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Mubarak in Sharm El-Sheikh following an invitation by the Egyptian President.
According to a 1998 Israeli cabinet decision, the foreign minister is allowed a limited number of political appointments as diplomatic envoys. The Foreign Ministry Appointments Committee met yesterday to discuss a final decision on Lieberman’s choice.
The Israeli Embassy in Cairo declined to comment on the current situation because no official decision has as yet been made.
Lieberman defended his choice as a qualified possibility, acknowledging that there were further steps before the ambassador can be instated.
“There are thoughts, and already there is criticism about the thought, he said on Israeli radio. “Why don’t we set up a thought police? -Additional reporting by Sasha Williams.