(JTA) — An Egyptian intelligence officer asked influential talk show hosts in the country to downplay the significance of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi said in the phone calls that Egypt would denounce the decision in public to keep it in line with the other Arab countries, but that problems with Israel were not in Egypt’s national interest, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing four audio recordings of Kholi’s conversations with influential media personalities in Egypt.
Kholi reportedly told the hosts that instead of condemning Trump’s decision, they should persuade their viewers to accept it and to consider Ramallah, the current capital of the Palestinian Authority, as the Palestinian capital.
“How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?” Kholi in the recordings obtained by The New York Times.
The hosts Kholi called all heeded his advice, and most other voices in the state-owned and pro-government news media across the Arab world were also muted about the status of Jerusalem, according to the Times.
Egypt’s General Information Authority on Sunday denied the report. “It is not appropriate that such a large newspaper like the New York Times publishes a story like this,” the authority said in a statement. “Nothing can be deduced about the Egyptian position on international matters from leaks that are connected to an unknown person. Positions are laid out by the president and foreign minister through officially stated positions.”
The authority also said that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry support the idea of eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
The Times said that the recordings were furnished by an intermediary supportive of the Palestinian cause and opposed to Sisi. The newspaper said the origin of the recordings “could not be determined.”