Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Plans to Put Treaty With Israel to a Referendum

MB says 'will not recognize Israel under any circumstances'; move to cancel peace treaty could represent strategic chance too great for MB as it seeks international legitimacy.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the overwhelming victor in the first round of elections for the Egyptian Parliament, has announced it will not recognize Israel and intends to bring the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty to a referendum.

"We will not recognize Israel under any circumstances; we are talking about an occupation entity and a criminal enemy," said Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy head of the Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood - Reuters - 26/12/2011

"There is no condition that obligates the movement to recognize Israel," Bayoumi reportedly told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper.

This position appears to be in stark contrast to the previous reports by Western diplomats, who stated that the movement's leaders had told them the Brotherhood would not endanger Egypt's relationship with Israel.

Yet Bayoumi is rejecting any possibility that he or any member of his movement would agree to meet with Israelis. He said the Muslim Brotherhood would uphold all international agreements signed by Egypt during the current "interim" period, but added that once a new government is in place the peace treaty with Israel would be reopened and the people would be asked to decide.

"This is an agreement that was formulated and signed far from the eyes of the people and the Parliament, so we must return this agreement to the people and let them have their say about whether this agreement hurts Egyptian interests and sovereignty," Bayoumi said.

A senior Egyptian journalist told Haaretz, however, that this position could change after the government is formed.

He noted that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking international legitimacy, particularly among Western countries such as the United States, and any move to cancel the peace treaty with Israel could represent a strategic chance too great for the movement to take upon itself. This likely explains why the Brotherhood is discussing a referendum, he said.