Egypt intelligence official directs television hosts to accept Jerusalem decision
An Egyptian intelligence officer attempted to shape public opinion in the wake of US President Donald Trumps’ controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to a report by the New York Times.
Captain Ashraf al-Kholi secretly called a number of influential Egyptian television hosts and informed them of both Cairo’s public and private stance on the controversial decision - which they were to convey to viewers.
“I was just calling to tell you what our public stance is, so if you go on TV or speak in an interview, I am telling you what is the stance of Egypt’s national security apparatus and what it stands to benefit from in this matter of announcing Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, O.K.?” the officer told one of the hosts, according to recordings obtained by NYT.
“Give me orders, sir,” the host, Saeed Hassaseen replied. “I am at your command.”
“We, like all our Arab brothers, are denouncing this matter,” Captain Kholi continued. But “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.”
“The point that is dangerous for us is the intifada issue,” Captain Kholi explained. “An intifada would not serve Egypt’s national security interests because an intifada would revive the Islamists and Hamas. Hamas would be reborn once more.”
“At the end of the day, later on, Jerusalem won’t be much different from Ramallah. What matters is ending the suffering of the Palestinian people,” Captain Kholi said.
“Concessions are a must and if we reach a concession whereby Jerusalem will be — Ramallah will be the capital of Palestine, to end the war and so no one else dies, then we would go for it.”
“Exactly that,” agreed one host, Azmi Megahed, who confirmed the authenticity of the recording according to the US-based publication.
The report also suggests the captain directed Megahed to lay the blame on Qatar - which has been ostracised by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain since June last year.
“You also will say that Tamim and Qatar have secret ties to Israel. You know all that,” Captain Kholi told the talk show host.
“Obvious ties,” Mr. Megahed replied. “My pleasure. My pleasure. I will include it in the next episode, God willing.”
Meanwhile, Egyptian state media carried reports suggesting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi protested the move to Trump himself, while other reports showed religious leaders rejected plans to meet Vice President Mike Pence amid the controversy.
But Megahed, one of the many television hosts to speak to Captain Kholi, downplayed the content of the recordings.
“I am friends with Ashraf and we talk all the time,” Megahed said. “Another intifada would be bad. I have no problem saying all of the things you have heard in that call in public.”
“We should have buses pick up all the people who say they want to go fight for Jerusalem and actually drive them to Jerusalem. Go fight if you are so tough. People are sick of the slogans and all that. I only care about the interests of my country.”
Among those who allegedly spoke to Captain Kholi were Mofid Fawzy, who denied taking part in such calls, Saeed Hassaseen, a television host and member of parliament, and Egyptian singer Yousra.
All three influencers agreed to deliver the captain’s message, according to the report.