The Egyptian state, three talk-show hosts and a well-known actor have denied claims by the New York Times that an Egyptian intelligence officer urged them to promote last month’s decision by the United States to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
The US newspaper said in a report on Saturday that it had obtained a tape with recordings of four phone calls the officer, a Captain Ashraf al-Kholi, made to Egyptian actor Yousra and talk-show hosts Mofid Fawzy, Saeed Hassaseen and Azmi Megahed.
The paper reported that Kholi told them “strife with Israel was not in Egypt’s national interest,” that they must convince their audiences to accept the decision, and that the Palestinians should content themselves with Ramallah as a future capital of Palestine.
Kholi said, according to the report, that Egypt would denounce the decision like other Arab countries, but told Hassaseen that he was informing him of 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.”
He allegedly said the Palestinians would not be able to resist the decision and “we don’t want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know,” adding that concessions were necessary to end Palestinians’ suffering.
In response, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), a body affiliated with the Egyptian presidency, published a statement Sunday that “Egypt’s stances on international issues are not inferred from the alleged leaks of an unknown person, but are expressed by the president of the state and the foreign minister and official statements and actions.”
The SIS said that Yousra, Hassaseen and Megahed denied knowing a person called Ashraf al-Kholi, and that Yousra said she did not discuss the Jerusalem move with anyone or make any media statements about it.
It added that Hassaseen said he did not receive any phone calls on the issue, and that Fawzy had not presented his show in years.
The SIS pointed out that Hassaseen and Fawzy were not hosting television shows during or after the US decision, and said Yousra is not affiliated with any television shows.
Local media also reported the denials. Yousra told Masrawy that she didn’t know anyone called Ashraf al-Kholi and intended to file a complaint against the New York Times bureau in Egypt. She declared that she always believed Jerusalem was Palestinian.
Hassaseen, who is also an MP, told Sada al-Balad that the New York Times report was spurious, that he had not appeared on television for two months, and the US decision was made a month ago. He said he would sue the newspaper.
“No intelligence officer or any security body has contacted me since I started working in the media and no one dictates my opinions to me,” he said, apparently referring to the New York Times claim that he responded to Kholi’s request in the recording by saying, “Give me orders, sir… I am at your command.”
The United States’ December 6 declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a claim made by Israel but rejected by other states and the United Nations, was internationally condemned. Egypt censured the decision the day it was taken, describing it in a Foreign Ministry statement as illegitimate and saying Egypt rejects any effects resulting from it.
In Cairo, citizens protested outside the Journalists Syndicate and Al-Azhar. A permit for a protest outside the Arab League headquarters was rejected by the Interior Ministry.