Tapes reveal Egyptian leaders’ tacit acceptance of Jerusalem move

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As Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, an Egyptian intelligence officer was quietly working to persuade Egyptians to accept the decision. (photo: Shadi Hatem / European Pressphoto Agency)

Arab governments publicly condemned President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem but criticism in state-owned and pro-government media across the Arab world was muted.

By David D. Kirkpatrick | The New York Times | Jan 6, 2018


“How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?”
— Egyptian intelligence officer Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi


As President Trump moved last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an Egyptian intelligence officer quietly placed phone calls to the hosts of several influential talk shows in Egypt.

“Like all our Arab brothers,” Egypt would denounce the decision in public, the officer, Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi, told the hosts.

But strife with Israel was not in Egypt’s national interest, Captain Kholi said. He told the hosts that instead of condemning the decision, they should persuade their viewers to accept it. Palestinians, he suggested, should content themselves with the dreary West Bank town that currently houses the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.

“Exactly that,” agreed one host, Azmi Megahed, who confirmed the authenticity of the recording.

For decades, powerful Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have publicly criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, while privately acquiescing to Israel’s continued occupation of territory the Palestinians claim as their homeland.

But now a de facto alliance against shared foes such as Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State militants and the Arab Spring uprisings is drawing the Arab leaders into an ever-closer collaboration with their one-time nemesis, Israel — producing especially stark juxtapositions between their posturing in public and private.

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