Recordings Reveal Egypt's Acceptance of Trump's Declaration: 'How Is Jerusalem Different From Ramallah?'

In tapes obtained by The New York Times, Egyptian intelligence officer advises talk show hosts to downplay Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying it could 'revive the Islamists and Hamas'

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi during in Suez, October 29, 2017.
HANDOUT/REUTERS

An Egyptian intelligence officer urged a number of prominent talk show hosts in the country to convince their viewers to accept the U.S. position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, The New York Times reported.

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In four audio recordings obtained by the Times, the officer, Capt. Ashraf al-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.

An Egyptian protester carries a Palestinian flag during an anti-Trump and anti-Israel protest at the Lawyers Syndicate in Cairo, December 10, 2017.
MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS

"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 has been battling an Islamic State insurgency in Sinai for several years. Militants killed over 300 worshippers at a mosque in the north of the peninsula in November of last year.

While Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-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.

Egypt has also been hard at work on brokering a reconcilliation deal between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It has also eased its stance on Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, after the militant group ended its association with the Muslim Brotherhood – which is banned in Egypt. "An intifada would not serve Egypt’s national security interests because an intifada would revive the Islamists and Hamas," Kholi explained in one of the recordings. "Hamas would be reborn once more."

All the hosts did what Kholi asked, according to the Times, and most publications affiliated with the government were equally muted about U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration in early December.

One of the four talk show hosts on the recordings, Azmi Megahed, confirmed that the conversation occurred. "Mr. Megahed, in an interview, said that he had agreed with Captain Kholi based on his personal assessment of the need to avoid a fresh outbreak of violence, not on the orders of the intelligence service," the Times wrote.

One host denied participating in such a conversation and another backed out of a planned interview. The Times was not able to reach the fourth host.