Israel to resolve maritime dispute with former rival while Iran-backed terrorists threaten war

Micaela Burrow, DCNF

Israel will approve a U.S.-mediated arrangement over contested islands in the Red Sea, possibly leading to increased cooperation between former rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia, Axios reported Thursday.

The Biden administration reportedly negotiated with Israel and Saudi Arabia, which do not have formal diplomatic relations, for months to ensure the smooth transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands in the Red Sea to Saudi control, according to Axios. Israeli officials told Axios parameters of the deal were finalized Thursday, and it will be announced when Biden visits Saudi Arabia on Friday.

“There’s some thought that the Biden administration might be able to use that issue… as a way to facilitate more direct diplomatic contact between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Dr. F. Gregory Gause, a senior Middle East scholar, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A 2018 resolution to turn over control of the islands from Israel stalled after Saudi Arabia pushed for international observers to leave the islands, according to Axios. The 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty required a multinational force to ensure the islands remain demilitarized, and any alteration to the islands’ status would require approval from Israel and Egypt.

The U.S. will allegedly offer Israel security guarantees concerning Saudi Arabia’s promise to maintain freedom of navigation around the islands, Axios reported. Israel operates a major port in the Gulf of Eilat at the north end of the Red Sea, Gause explained.

“I don’t think that that’s a huge issue in terms of American interests, but the Biden administration has been pushing for more open cooperation between Israel and the Arab states, building on the Abraham Accords from from the Trump administration,” said Gause.

Meanwhile, a dispute over territory in the Mediterranean Sea has grown heated in recent weeks. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s terrorist Hezbollah government, threatened something “worse than war” if Israel does not hand over rights to undersea gas reserves near the two countries’ maritime border, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

If the Israelis and Americans “don’t give us our rights that are demanded by the state, and if you don’t allow companies to extract (oil) God knows what we will do,” said Nasrallah. “We will turn over the table in the face of the world.”

Nasrallah’s statements came hours after President Biden touched down in Tel Aviv Wednesday to meet with Israeli leaders.

Earlier in July, Israel shot down three Hezbollah drones, which Hezbollah claimed were for surveillance purposes alone, over the Karish gas field.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have long expressed concern about Iran-backed proxies, including Hezbollah, threatening regional security.

The White House and the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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