By MATTHEW LEE and JOSH LEDERMAN
The Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric.
In blunt comments, the White House and State Department said Morsi’s statements were “deeply offensive” and ran counter to the goal of peace in the region. The State Department, noting that a senior congressional delegation is now visiting Egypt, said the remarks complicated efforts to provide economic and military aid to Egypt.
Morsi was a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood in 2010 when, according to video broadcast last week on Egyptian television he asked Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred.” Months later, in a television interview, Morsi referred to Zionists as bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, describing Zionists as “the descendants of apes and pigs.”
A group of senators, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Christopher Coons, D-Del., is currently in Cairo. Nuland said she expected they would make their views known to Egypt’s leadership.
Morsi’s remarks and the Obama administration’s rebuke marked a new point of tension in the complex relationship between the U.S. and Egypt’s fledgling democracy.
Since being elected in June of 2012 in the aftermath of the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, Morsi has promised to abide by Egypt’s decades-old peace treaty with Israel. Morsi was also instrumental in facilitating a cease-fire in November between Israel and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, despite his refusal to speak directly with Israeli officials.
The White House and State Department did acknowledge Morsi’s willingness during that crisis to work with the U.S. toward mutual goals, and said Egypt’s continuing commitment to its peace treaty with Israel is essential for U.S. relations with Egypt.
Nuland said his actions as president in support of the peace treaty with Israel are laudable but only one part of picture.
An official in Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak public about an issue of such sensitivity, said the comments were a “big concern” but that Israel did not want to fuel tensions with Egypt.
The two sets of comments were first reported on Tuesday by the New York Times.
Donna Cassata in Washington and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.