The Egyptian government has issued a blanket denial of a New York Times report that an Egyptian intelligence officer advised prominent talk show hosts to convince their viewers to accept U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Those mentioned in the report do not host talk shows, the Egyptian government said in a statement, and there is no proof that Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi, the person who approached them according to the article, was in fact a member of the Egyptian intelligence services.
In four audio recordings obtained by the Times, Kholi reportedly told the hosts that conflict with Israel was not in Egypt's national interest. “How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?” he asked each time.
"We, like all our Arab brothers, are denouncing this matter,” Kholi was quoted as saying. "After that, this thing will become a reality. Palestinians can’t resist and we don’t want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know."
“Egypt’s diplomatic stance will not be presented through leaks of doubtful credibility, but rather by the president [Abded Fattah al-Sissi] and the foreign minister [Sameh Shoukry] and official statements and all of these parties have made their resolute position on Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue clear, and this has been translated into deeds and votes at United Nations institutions despite threats from the United States,” the statement said.
While Sissi said that his country "regrets Trump’s decision," which will "complicate the peace process," Egypt's relations with Israel are based on military and intelligence interests unrelated to the Palestinian issue or Jerusalem’s status.
According to the Times, all the hosts did what Kholi asked, and most publications affiliated with the government were equally muted about Trump's declaration in early December.
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