CAIRO: Egypt has accused Israel of lacking the political will to achieve peace with the Palestinians during Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s speech to the UN General Assembly Saturday on behalf of the Non-Alignment Movement.
Aboul Gheit, along with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahayan and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judah expressed frustration at Israeli unwillingness to participate in peace talks towards a viable solution.
“Throughout this year, Israel has shown a lack of the necessary political will to engage in serious and credible negotiations that aim at reaching a final settlement to the conflict, Aboul Gheit said.
The foreign minister highlighted the aspects of this final settlement, which included the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Al-Nahayan bemoaned “the continued hostile attitude of the Israeli government and Judah indicated that a positive response to the Arab peace initiative of 2002 was needed.
Kefaya member and Gaza activist Nada Kassass told Daily News Egypt that while she agreed with the sentiment that Israel was stalling the peace process, there remained a question mark over the relationship between the Egyptian government and Israel, especially in regards to the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“The minister’s comments seem critical about Israel but the reality is not like that. There have been no official protests from Aboul Gheit whether about events inside the occupied territories or when Egyptian border soldiers have been shot by Israel. Yet when Palestinians breached the border in January 2008 he said he’d cut their legs off, she said.
Kassass stated that the Egyptian regime was belligerent towards Israel when its own narrow interests were at stake but were non-committal when the wider interests of Egypt were under threat.
“Which Egyptians is Aboul Gheit speaking on behalf of? The regime defends its interests vehemently when it comes to putting one of their own in UNESCO but on the regional level the regime is absent from issues such as Jerusalem and even in regards to its own citizens. The Egyptian government is not the Egyptian people, she added.
In his speech in New York, Aboul Gheit also complained about what he termed the “politicization of human rights because of its effects on other issues, adding that this politicization “hinders the potential to reach consensuses on several issues that should not be subject to controversy.
He stated that economic and social rights were not given the same attention, arguing that “this negatively affects on the public perception in many of our societies, particularly those which fare dire, and occasionally abrasive, economic and living conditions.
“To those people, it is believed that continuous talk about human rights represents a luxury they cannot afford and neglects their basic requirements for sustenance, he added.
Head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid told Daily News Egypt that “Aboul Gheit’s request to not politicize human rights is coming from the wrong source. It is known that the government politicizes human rights when it is criticized over it and when it has a request it covers it as a rights issue.
Aboul Gheit also called for a draft resolution against incitement of religious hatred under the pretext of freedom of expression, which he claimed was misused to insult peoples’ faiths and beliefs.
“I emphasize here – with the utmost respect to the importance of the freedom of expression – that we reject any depiction of the repeated affronts to religions and sanctities as a legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression, he said.
Eid said, “We don’t think the Egyptian government is interested in religion but rather in protecting itself because they have not submitted any clarification on what they consider constitutes incitement to religious hatred. Does criticizing religious figures equate to insulting religions?
“If the grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar or Pope Shenouda interfere in political affairs or support the inheritance of power then they have entered a political domain where there is a right to criticize them, he added.
“All the countries attempting to pass this resolution are undemocratic and have a low margin of freedom of expression and human rights, Eid said.