“How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?”
When President Trump affirmed his support for Israel by acknowledging “the obvious . . . that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” the Middle East was outraged. Egypt, however and despite public denouncements, has reportedly accepted, if somewhat tacitly, the move.
As President Trump moved last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an Egyptian intelligence officer quietly placed phone calls to the hosts of several influential talk shows in Egypt.
“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 dreary West Bank 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.
. . . . For decades, powerful Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have publicly criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, while privately acquiescing to Israel’s continued occupation of territory the Palestinians claim as their homeland.
But now a de facto alliance against shared foes such as Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State militants and the Arab Spring uprisings is drawing the Arab leaders into an ever-closer collaboration with their one-time nemesis, Israel — producing especially stark juxtapositions between their posturing in public and private.
. . . . Shibley Telhami, a scholar of the region at the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution, called the Arab states’ acceptance of the decision “transformational.”
“I don’t think it would have happened a decade ago, because Arab leaders would have made clear they wouldn’t live with it,” he said. Instead, he said, preoccupied by concerns about their own stability, the Arab leaders signaled that — while they may not like the decision — they “will find a way to work with it,” and “with a White House that is prepared to break with what had been taboos in American foreign policy.”
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