The Egypt Report: Trump gifts Jerusalem to Israel as Sisi shrugs

The Egypt Report: Trump gifts Jerusalem to Israel as Sisi shrugs
Our new weekly round-up of news from Egypt
5 min read
15 December, 2017
The Egypt Report is a weekly feature at The New Arab.

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Sisi has been uncharacteristically quiet this week.

As the Arab world erupted in seething denunciation of US President Donald Trump's "recognition" of Jerusalem as Israel's capital (effectively annexing East Jerusalem), President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi escaped enraged Cairenes and headed to Sharm El Sheikh.

In the southern Sinai resort town, Sisi hosted the 2017 Africa Business Forum. An avid conference and forum organiser, Sisi hosts similar events every month. In a bid to encourage foreign investment, Sisi boasted to African business leaders attending the event that "Egyptians have a lot of money".

His people quickly responded, reminding their president of a previous statement he made not too long ago where he declared "we [Egyptians] are very poor" when asked about crushing austerity measures.

During the forum, Sisi failed to make any mention of Jerusalem. Ahmed Tayeb, Al Azhar's grand imam, meanwhile declared Trump's announcement had "opened the floodgates of hell".

In an unprecedented show of disapproval, the imam promptly rejected a meeting requested by American Vice-President Mike Pence who will be visiting Egypt this week. Pope Tawadros of Alexandria followed suit.

Tayeb released a statement justifying his decision to snub Pence: "I cannot sit down with those who falsify history, violate the rights of people and infringe upon the sanctity of their beliefs. How can I be in the company of those who gave away what they had no rightful claim to? The American president has to immediately rescind this illegal declaration."

President Sisi did not cancel his meeting with Mike Pence.

Sami Annan, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, also commented on the annexation of East Jerusalem. In a statement published on his official Facebook page, Annan pointed fingers at Arab leadership, declaring "the current climate of overwhelming internal conflicts, clashes and division is what gave our adversaries the audacity to humiliate and degrade us this way".
The former lieutenant-general urged all Arabs to "rise up and resist all attempts to infringe upon [their] rights and sacred sites". Anan ended his statement with a sinister dig at the widely rumoured "Deal of the Century" - warning "[the loss of] Jerusalem is nothing but a part of larger deal".

Sisi's public silence on Jerusalem has been deafening, prompting protesters to question where his loyalties lie.


Habib al-Adly, Egypt's former interior minister, began serving a seven-year sentence on Tuesday. Convicted on charges of corruption and misuse of public funds in May 2017, Adly was released in November 2016 pending trial and declared a fugitive days later.

The effort to find the fugitive minister was seemingly kicked into high gear after The New York Times reported that Adly was in Saudi Arabia, serving as Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman's security adviser.

Adly has avoided larger charges of conspiracy to kill protesters during the 2011 uprising - a crime for which he was initially convicted in 2012, but acquitted upon retrial in 2015. Ousting Adly was the initial goal of the January 25 protests, but the minister remains legally unaccountable for the human rights abuses Egyptians endured at the hands of the police during his 14-year tenure as Minister of Interior.

As Adly pays the price of fiscal indiscretion, five journalists were arrested on the steps of the Syndicate of Journalists in downtown Cairo for organising a protest against Trump's assertion that Jerusalem was Israel's capital.

The journalists were charged with belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a seemingly universal charge for anyone who displays the slightest displeasure at government policies. 

In a statement, security forces announced the journalists were arrested because "they chanted against Egypt, turning their demonstration from one against Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital to one against the Egyptian government and President Sisi".

The statement seemingly equates dissent against the government with membership of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Media meltdown

After the theatrics surrounding Ahmed Shafiq's disappearance and reappearance last week, the Egyptian media faced a much more delicate balancing act this week. Caught between their patron president's curious silence over Jerusalem and their viewers' mounting indignation, the media took an all-too-familiar turn for the bizarre.

Nightly talk show host Basma Wahba held up a roughly sketched Israeli flag and dramatically tore it to small pieces. She then followed the same route religiously shadowed by Egyptian talk show hosts when faced with any crisis: blame Turkey, blame Qatar, blame the Muslim Brotherhood and blame Iran.

The media personality played a 2005 clip of Recip Tayyip Erdogan, then-Turkish prime minister, being greeted by Ariel Sharon during a visit to Israel.

Wahba fumed at the 12-year-old clip because, according to her, the fact that the meeting took place in Jerusalem meant that Erdogan was in fact the first to recognise the holy city as Israel's capital.

Fiscal fun

The annual budget for the 2018/2019 fiscal year is set to be announced. A government source told The New Arab the deficit is set to decrease from the current 9.5 percent to 8.5 percent, while national debt will also decrease from 98 percent of GDP to 94 percent in 2018/2019.

This turnaround, the source claimed, is due to strict austerity measures implementd by the Egypt government as part of the IMF loan package. The source also stated that the government aimed to eliminate subsidies on goods in 2018/2019 while maintaining welfare aid to the poor.

The Egyptian pound however, continues to decline against the US dollar. Falling by 0.20EGP on Sunday, the local currency saw the sharpest decline in four months. The government's Central Agency for Mobilisation and Statistics also announced that November saw inflation rise by one percent.

Meme of the week

Translation: "Is this where you keep the money?"

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