The United States is reportedly brokering a deal to transfer two Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, according to reports, in what could be the first step towards normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, control the entrance to the strategic Gulf of Aqaba that leads to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel, as reported by Axios. The initial announcement of the deal in 2016 sparked protests in Egypt, however legal challenges brought against it were rejected by the country's supreme court.
If successful, it would be a major victory for the Biden administration and the most significant foreign policy achievement since the Abraham Accords in 2020 when the United States, under President Donald Trump, brokered agreements to normalise relations between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Israel.
The transfer could also help lower the tension between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh had supported the Abraham Accords, but at the time had stated it would only normalise relations with Israel if there was significant progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel has ramped up its attacks against the Palestinians over the past few months.
Israeli police raided Jerusalem’s sacred Al-Aqsa complex before and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April, and a recent report states that Israel arrested 1,228 Palestinians that month. On 11 May, Israeli forces shot dead veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and later attacked her funeral, arresting dozens of people.
Saudi Arabia reportedly gave the islands to Egypt in 1950, and they were demilitarised as part of a 1979 treaty between Israel and Egypt in which both countries recognised the other and ended the longstanding state of war between them.