A senior Egyptian intelligence officer briefed television presenters from his country after President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and rhetorically asked “How is Ramallah different from Jerusalem?”.
“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 town that currently houses the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.
“How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?” Captain Kholi asked repeatedly in four audio recordings of his telephone calls obtained by The New York Times.
“Exactly that,” agreed one host, Azmi Megahed, who confirmed the authenticity of the recording.
The hosts Captain 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 strikingly muted, even unemotional, about the status of Jerusalem. Such a response would have been all but unthinkable even a decade ago, much less during the period between 1948 and 1973, when Egypt and its Arab allies fought three wars against Israel.
Two spokesmen for the Egyptian government did not respond to requests for comment for the article. Captain Kholi could not be reached.