Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered an “urgent” investigation on Thursday into a New York Times report about recordings purportedly of an intelligence officer instructing TV talk show hosts and a famous actress to downplay US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In a statement, chief prosecutor Nabil Sadeq said the report, published over the weekend, “undermines Egypt’s security, public peace and hurts the public’s interest.”
The decision followed a flurry of condemnation of the Times by lawmakers, commentators and the State Information Service.
The government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a close Trump ally, has denounced Trump’s Jerusalem decision.
Michael Slackman, The Times international editor, was quoted as saying in an article published Wednesday that the paper’s “story was a deeply reported, consequential piece of journalism, and we stand fully behind it.”
The intelligence officer, Cpt. Ashraf al-Kholi, is reported to have told hosts that widespread unrest over Washington’s move would “not serve Egypt’s national security interests,” as it would “revive the Islamists and Hamas. Hamas would be reborn once more.
Though he was quoted as saying Cairo would denounce Trump’s declaration, he reportedly added, “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 Times reported that Egyptian intelligence regularly briefs TV hosts on messages leaders want them to communicate to the public, and the recordings showed the officer’s interlocutors were all very accommodating.
In response to Trump’s move, Egypt publicly said the decision was a violation of international resolutions on the city’s status. It also reflected concern regarding the impact of the US move on the stability of the region and regarding its “extremely negative” impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
On December 6, in an address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and said that his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was merely based on reality and insisted that he wasn’t prejudging the future borders of the city.
Bitterly rejected by the Palestinian Authority, which is now boycotting the Trump administration, the move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.