The letter called for Olmert to visit Egypt only under the condition that a date would be set for a “reciprocal, official, first of its kind visit by the Egyptian president to Israel”.
Among those who signed the letter were Kadima members MK Amira Dotan and MK Otniel Schneller. The latter explained that he signed the letter despite the fact that Olmert was his party’s chairman and said, “We want to empower him. I’m not going against him, on the contrary.”
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), the initiator of the letter, told Ynet that it was in protest of the “asymmetry between Israel and Egypt”.
“This situation sends the message to the entire region that despite the peace agreement between the two countries, Egypt doesn’t acknowledge Israel,” Steinitz explained.
The letter claimed that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s “boycott” on official visits to Israel has been going on for over two decades, while Israel’s prime ministers frequently visit Egypt.
The letter also pointed out that former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Mubarak’s predecessor, made sure to carry out at least one official visit to Israel per year, thereby showing progress to peace.
The committee members also mentioned former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to cancel his participation in the first peace summit with American President George W. Bush and Mubarak, and agreeing to participate in the second peace summit on the condition that Azzam Azzam was released from prison.
MK Dotan clarified that she believed the letter did not undermine the prime minister but strengthened him. “I support the prime minister in succeeding to leverage mutuality in the relationship between Egypt and Israel,” she said.
MK Schneller added, “Our prime minister is brave enough to tell our neighbors that we are a central and significant country in the Middle East, and not a country under anyone’s patronage.”
In addition to Dotan, Schneller, and Steinitz the letter was also signed by MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party), MK Limor Livnat (Likud), MK Shlomo Benizri (Shas), MK Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners Party), MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Our Home).