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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Did Morsy write to Peres or didn't he?

It is perhaps most indicative of the state of affairs between Israel and Egypt that after President Peres' office released a copy of a letter it received from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy on Tuesday, the Egyptians denied ever sending the letter (letter here).
The office of President Shimon Peres of Israel first raised expectations on Tuesday when it released a letter that it said it had received by fax from Mr. Morsi via the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv. The letter thanked Mr. Peres for his earlier letter of congratulations at the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and expressed hopes for more cooperation with Israel on peace and security issues.

Later in the day, however, an official spokesman for Mr. Morsi denied in a statement to an Egyptian newspaper that Mr. Morsi had sent any conciliatory messages, and called reports of such a letter “slander.”

The episode underscored the delicacy of ties between the neighbors, which have maintained a peaceful if publicly frosty relationship for three decades but face new tensions as Egypt comes more under the sway of Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, once repressed in Egypt, has long been hostile toward Israel, although its leaders have moderated their views in recent months. Among the Egyptian populace, antipathy toward Israel and support for the Palestinians run deep.

The dispute erupted as Mr. Panetta, visiting both Egypt and Israel, said Mr. Morsi was “his own man,” a sign of American support for a former leader of the Brotherhood.

But the denial, which came after Mr. Panetta left Cairo for Jerusalem, raised the possibility that Mr. Morsi and his aides were saying different things to different audiences, or that they were unprepared for the scrutiny that accompanies any public statements he makes on a matter as charged as Egypt’s ties with Israel. It was also possible that, as a spokesman claimed, the letter was a fake.

Mr. Morsi’s office has not explained what happened in any detail. But his official spokesman, Yasser Ali, told Al Ahram, the semiofficial state newspaper, that Israeli accounts of the exchange were fabricated.

“This is completely unfounded, and President Morsi did not send any letters to the Israeli president,” he was quoted as saying. “What the Israeli newspapers published in this regard on Tuesday is slander, and the slander will not stop.”

Later, Ahmed Abdel Atty, a top Morsi aide, responded, “Not true,” in a text message when asked if Mr. Morsi had sent the letter.

Mr. Peres’s office said the letter arrived through official channels, with the Israeli president’s military secretary serving as a conduit.
What could go wrong?

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