Israel Watches as Egypt Transfers Key Islands to Saudis

Israel’s watching this development carefully: Egypt relinquished control of two islands in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia. The move settles an Egyptian-Saudi maritime dispute and paves the way for the two countries to build a bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Sharm El-Sheikh, which is at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

It’s not clear what the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands means for Israeli shipping and naval operations.

Saudi Arabia allowed Egypt to take control of the islands in 1950 and former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser blocked Israeli ships from crossing through the Straits of Tiran in May 1967. Israel used the blockade as one of its casus belli in launching a pre-emptive strike against Egypt in the Six-Day War. Israel occupied the islands from 1967 until the full implementation of the Camp David Accords – the Israel-Egypt peace treaty – in 1982.

Following the Israeli withdrawal from the islands, Egypt regained control. The Multinational Force Observers (MFO) – a US-led force established as a part of the Camp David Accords to monitor the Israel-Egypt peace agreement – set up an observation post on the island of Tiran in order to ensure the freedom of movement of Israeli vessels through the straits. The MFO still maintains presence on the island.

Straits of Tiran


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One Comment

  1. I doubt if Saudi Arabia having reacquired the islands from Egypt, would pose any threat. Actually, Egypt rejected and deposed its President Morsi, who was an Obama recommendation to Egypt and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia. The alliances and friends fluctuate in the Arab world, only a few months ago, it was leaked that Saudi Arabia had offered Israel use of Saudi airbases in the event the IAF needed to be closer in range to bomb Iranian strategic targets. Saudi Arabia has been very concerned about Iran’s aggressive stance in the Gulf area, in addition to the fact of incessant Iranian threats against Israel, and Iran’s obvious objective of replacing Saudi Arabia as the Muslim power in the gulf.
    As with anything else in that region, we’ll see if Saudi Arabia’s attitude is stable enough to stay out of Egypt’s internal business and remain communicative with Israel. There was a request from Saudi Arabia to Israel to purchase Israeli-made spy drones in the not to distant past.

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