Egypt's April 9 announcement of the transfer of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabian sovereignty came as a complete surprise to many in the Middle East. The only country that was not surprised was Israel. A top-level official in Jerusalem told Al-Monitor on April 12 that Israel had been privy to the secret negotiations. Israel had given its approval to the process and did not ask to reopen the peace agreement with Egypt, even though the agreement dictates that any territorial change or transfer of Egyptian sovereignty of lands that Israel gave back to other hands constitutes a violation of the treaty.
Talks between Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the transfer of these islands have been going on for years, with Israel firmly opposing the move. The fact that the transfer has now earned Israeli support reflects the depth of the shared interests between the three sides: Cairo, Riyadh and Jerusalem — although the Egyptians and Saudis prefer the label “Tel Aviv.”