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April 11, 2016 7:08 pm

Report: Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty to Undergo Changes as Saudi Arabia Enters Equation, Takes Possession of Strategic Islands in Gulf of Aqaba

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Tiran, one of the islands that Egypt transferred to Saudi Arabia. Photo: Wikipedia.

Tiran, one of the islands that Egypt transferred to Saudi Arabia. Photo: Wikipedia.

An Egyptian newspaper reported on Monday that the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is likely to undergo some changes due to regional developments, according to the Hebrew news site nrg.

Al-Ahram said that the reason behind this possible shift is the agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on their maritime borders, signed during the Saudi king’s recent visit to Cairo. The significance of this development, which will require approval of both the Knesset and the Egyptian Parliament, is that Riyadh will become a factor in the peace treaty between Cairo and Jerusalem.

According to Al-Ahram, Israel was kept informed of the new agreement, which included the transfer to Saudi Arabia of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, in the Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat) in the Red Sea, near the entrance to the Suez Canal.

Though this alteration of maritime borders was done with Israel’s knowledge, nrg said, it is liable to affect the terms of the 1979 peace treaty signed between late leaders Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

The Al-Ahram report claimed, however, that Israel received a commitment from Saudi Arabia (which it defines as an enemy state) to honor the terms of that deal – among them that the islands would remain demilitarized and the maritime traffic of the Gulf of Aqaba preserved.

When asked during a press conference whether this means that Saudi Arabia is now planning to change its attitude towards and relations with Israel, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said, “We will not sign agreements with Israel; nor will we reach arrangements with it until the Palestinian problem is finally solved, and that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state along the ’67 borders, including east Jerusalem, and a solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees.”

In light of the above, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel explained the potential dangers posed to Israel by the pact. He referred in particular to an additional agreement reached between Cairo and Riyadh during Saudi King Salman’s meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – involving plans to build a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) bridge near Sharm el-Sheikh in southern Sinai, extending to Ras Hamid in northern Saudi Arabia.

Mazel told nrg that this is cause for concern. “The bridge could serve as a lookout point for civil and military vessels entering Israel, and that’s not so good. In addition, the fact that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir will belong to Saudi Arabia, with which we have no peace, is a problem. In theory, Saudi Arabia could do what it wants there, even deploy forces.”

“The Egypt-Saudi agreement changes the geopolitical situation,” Mazel said. “Even if at the moment those Arab states are cooperating with us, it is problematic, in that their basic attitude to Israel has not changed. Those are countries that believe in an Islam that totally denies our presence here, so that things could deteriorate as soon as there is a crisis. In such an event, the agreement would be a negative development. On the other hand, it is true that such an agreement could move Saudi Arabia closer to Israel.”

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  • glenda urmacher

    If Egypt transfers these islands to anyone , it should be to Israel.
    Saudi Arabia has no need for these islands, but they are strategic to the
    well being of Israel.
    These islands were part of the peace treaty with Israel and Egypt.
    The transfer to a third party nullifies this treaty.
    If they give the Islands to SA, Egypt should return the Sinai to Israel.
    That was the peace treaty between Begin and Anwar Sadat.

  • Al Tilena

    1. If the Saudi royal family males unofficial agreements with Israel, Wahabi imams lead an insurrection as happened in Iran.
    2. Egypt decides it can benefit more from closer ties to S.A. than Israel and renegs on the cold treaty.
    3. Another regime change in Egypt leads to #2.

  • robert davis

    This agreement between egypt and saudi arabis is INVALID in absence of Israel’s agreement and of course ISRAEL MUST NOT GIVE ITS AGREEMENT to such a change in the contracdt between egypt and Israel in which saudi arabia HAS ABSOLUTELY NO PART. Unless saudi arabia recognizes Israel and does not try to meddle in the arab/Israel conflict about the “palestinian” PUPPET which cannot possibly EVER get a State Inside Israel, this agreement is INVALID and worthless. Hopefully Israel’s stupid “leaders” will not be so dumb as to accept it.

  • Inge Johnson

    Stranger events have happened in the past. I do hope that this will become an opportuntiy for an agreement, not another war.

  • Peter Joffe

    It is easier and better to try to deal with the Saudis than it is to try to deal worth terrorists who want everything and will give nothing in return. The “Palestine” question is for Arabs to deal with as they are the ones who refuse to take ‘Palestinians’ back to where they came from. Jasser Arafat created this problem for his own political ends and now it has become the norm. Arabs could sort out this issue but not if it endangers the security of Israel. Violence is not a solution but violence is the only method know to Hamas.

  • joel knoblauch

    Is it possible that a bridge, once constructed, could be downed to impede transit through an important waterway?

    • Yale

      Yes, and it doesn’t even have to be brought down — it just has to be low enough to prevent ocean-going vessels from passing beneath it.

  • Holy Shirt

    Such agreement could move Saudi Arabia all the way to Lod. Call it Chicken Soup if you like. But don’t call it Mazel!

  • Only when there is a change of guard in saudi arabia the problem will crop up. Till then there is no need to worry much. with the peace treaty of egypt in force israel can even do agriculture in tiran islands with the waste water and help saudi arabia indirectly the water management. Through Egypt Israel can be used inside saudi arabia. Only when the caliphate of turkey or isis or iran enters into saudi arabia israel will have to be alert

  • Hopefully the Knesset will not approve any changes to the 1979 “Cold” Peace Treaty with Egypt. Israel must insist that any Saudi Arabian militarization of those islands would be an act of war against Israel. Saudi Arabia cannot be trusted to honor any commitments.

  • shloime

    look at a map: the islands of tiran and sanafir are nowhere near the entrance to the suez canal, they are even on the other side of the sinai peninsula.

    • Al Tilena

      You are correct as to where the islands are located. The writer goofed.
      . Still the situation could be a negative one for Israel. The islands are at the mouth of the Gulf of Eilat and could interfere with Israel’s trade with eastern Africa, India & the Far East. The islands have nothing to do with the Suez Canal.

  • Charles D. Gelfand

    I’d like to take a more positive attitude towards these developments.
    This will depend upon the cooperation of United States Egypt and Saudi Arabia to foster a better relationship amongst all three of them

    • lovezion

      “will depend upon the cooperation of United States”

      U.S. will be a very important element on the side of Israel DEPENDING ON….who wins the presidency! From what I see of the candidates I’m not too optimistic!

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    It appears that this deal has a two-pronged message for the State of Israel: a. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are neighbouring states who will seemingly maintain peaceful borders with Israel even with this treaty between them; b. Saudi Arabia does not recognise the State of Israel and could possibly use this new acquisition of territory in a strategically located area near Israel’s southern border as either a look-out post or a means to amass forces against Israel or both. Should Israel believe the word of an enemy state that this acquisition will only be used for peaceful means? Naiveté is not an attribute ascribed to the requisite Israeli stance on self-defence and the maintenance of security on all of Israel’s borders.