Egypt Opens Criminal Probe Over NYT Article on Its Tacit Acceptance of Trump's Jerusalem Move

Egypt says there is no proof that officer who briefed talk show hosts on how to treat Trump's announcement was in fact a member of Egypts intelligence services

U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi at the White House, April 3, 2017.
Bloomberg

Egypt's prosecutor general on Wednesday ordered a criminal investigation into 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 Trumps recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital, the Times reported

According to Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek, the article "undermines Egypt's security and public peace, and harms the country's public interest."

The Egyptian government issued a blanket denial of the report last week.

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 cant resist and we dont want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know."

Egypts 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 Trumps 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 Jerusalems 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.