Former Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Bassiouni died on Sunday morning at the age of 74, after a controversial life during which he served an 18-year stint as ambassador to Tel Aviv.
In a statement to state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA), Bassiouni’s son Hatem said his father passed away at home on Sunday morning.
He said Bassiouni suffered from hypertension and diabetes and had previously undergone coronary artery surgery, but that his condition was stable. He said his father continued to perform his work with dedication until his final moments.
Bassiouni was appointed Egypt's deputy ambassador in Tel Aviv after Egypt withdrew its ambassador Saad Murtada in 1982, in protest at the outbreak of the Lebanon war. Bassiouni managed the embassy until 1986, after which he was appointed Egypt’s official ambassador to Israel.
Bassiouni was Egypt's longest-serving ambassador to Israel.
The first was Murtada, who remained in the post for three years, followed by Bassiouni, then Ambassador Mohamed Asim for four years, and finally current Ambassador Yasser Reda, who took office in September 2008.
Bassiouni filled the position until the year 2000, after which he was summoned to Egypt in protest against brutal Israeli practices during the second Palestinian intifada. After his return to Egypt, has was appointed vice chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Shura Council.
Bassiouni was one of the most prominent defenders of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s policies toward Israel and the peace treaty, though critics denounced him for being too lenient with Tel Aviv. Bassiouni held that Mubarak did not offer any concessions to Israel but that he was maintaining peace.
Perhaps the most controversial remarks surrounding Bassiouni’s service in Israel were those broadcast by Egyptian and Israeli media outlets in August 2008. He said he was Egypt’s intelligence agent in Israel, and that his memories with the Israelis were "miserable."
However, later that month after a wave of Israeli criticism, Bassiouni denied having made the statements.
During his tenure as ambassador, an Israeli dancer accused him of sexually molesting her, but the investigation was closed due to his diplomatic immunity.
Bassiouni, a Military Academy graduate, also served in Egypt's military intelligence service until he reached the rank of brigadier after joining the army in 1950.
In 1973, he served as military attache at the Egyptian Embassy in Damascus, during which he played a key role in the joint Egyptian-Syrian attack against Israel. In 1976 he was appointed military attache at Egypt's embassy in Tehran.