Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Tuesday denied the horribly embarrassing revelation that he had actually been cordial to Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Early last month, Peres sent a personal letter to Morsi congratulating him on becoming Egypt's new president and wishing him a good Ramadan holiday season.
Israeli newspapers yesterday reported Morsi's reply, which expressed "deep thanks" for Peres' Ramadan wishes and Morsi's desire for regional peace and security.
But Morsi's spokesman, Yasser Ali, told Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper that the Israelis reports were a hoax. "President Morsi did not send any correspondence to the Israeli president, and the reports to that effect in Israelis newspapers...are fabricated," insisted Ali.
Peres' office was reportedly stunned by the hostile outburst. An official in the president's office speaking on condition of anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the situation, told the Times of Israel that not only was the letter from Morsi genuine, its publication had been approved by the Egyptian leader.
According to the source, Peres' office had asked the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv if it could publicize the letter. The Embassy reportedly asked Morsi, and returned with a green light.
The scanned images of the letter that appeared in Israeli newspapers provide evidence that it did originate from official Egyptian sources. The letter was faxed to Peres, and at the top of the page appears the name and fax number of the sender - the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv.
That the Egyptian government responded so angrily to reports of a simple exchange of pleasantries between its leader and Israel again raises concerns that relations between the two countries are set to transition from "icy" to "hostile."