- Thomas Lohnes/Getty
- While the Egyptian government was publicly denouncing the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it was also coordinating with popular TV hosts to sway public opinion in the US’ favor, The New York Times reported.
- A state intelligence officer reportedly worked behind the scenes to get influential hosts to convince their audiences to accept the US decision.
- President Donald Trump announced last month that the US would relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the disputed holy city.
President Donald Trump’s decision last month to relocate the US embassy in Israel sparked widespread protests in cities across the Middle East. Arab governments swiftly denounced the move as protestors sympathetic to the Palestinian cause took to the streets to express their outrage.
But behind the scenes in Egypt, things were a bit different.
As the Egyptian government publicly condemned Trump’s decision – including drafting a UN resolution calling for the US to reverse course – a state intelligence officer was also privately coordinating with popular talk show hosts in an attempt to get them to convince their viewers to accept it, according to The New York Times.
“We, like all our Arab brothers, are denouncing this matter,” Captain Ashraf al-Kholi, the Egyptian intelligence officer, reportedly told the TV hosts. “[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.”
Egypt continues to struggle to contain threats from a variety of regional foes, including the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Iran, and scattered ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula, a strip of land that links northeastern Egypt to southern Israel.
The Egyptian government’s attempts to mitigate outrage over Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem appears to be a calculated strategy. Analysts argue that Egypt would rather begrudgingly accept the US position than encourage protests that could easily devolve into more threatening regional violence.
“The point that is dangerous for us is the intifada issue,” Kholi said in recordings obtained by The Times. “An intifada would not serve Egypt’s national security interests because an intifada would revive the Islamists and Hamas.”
Kholi spoke to at least four influential TV hosts, all of whom appeared receptive to his argument.
“Give me orders, sir,” host Saeed Hassaseen said. “I am at your command.”
Egypt isn’t the only Arab country tacitly accepting Trump’s decision. On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Robert Satloff, a foreign policy expert, noted how quiet Saudi officials have been on the issue.
“Among the Arabs that count – America’s allies – the reaction has generally been sober, measured, and mature,” Satloff wrote in Foreign Policy.
“Those who prophesied that the Arab and Muslim response to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be apocalyptic – waves of anti-American demonstrations, mass violence against U.S. citizens, institutions and interests, and the final and irrevocable end of American influence in the region,” he added, “[they] seem to have been totally wrong.”