Biden's July jaunt to Israel and Saudi Arabia
Israel and Jordan have important commercial shipping seaports in the Gulf of Aqaba. Tiran and Sanafir, islands in the Strait of Tiran, are strategic to international shipping between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Egypt and Saudi Arabia each claim control of this strait. It is reported that Joe Biden is working behind the scenes to broker a deal that would transfer sovereignty of these islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps this effort is meant as appeasement toward the Saudis for Biden's insults to the Kingdom and to the royal crown.
Since the Ottoman Empire lost control of the region, maritime borders in the Strait of Tiran have been disputed. It is a narrow passage in the Red Sea among the Gulf of Aqaba, the Sinai, and the Arabian Peninsula. After the 1948 War, the Rhodes Armistice Agreement placed the islands and the strait under Egyptian control. The following year, an Arab boycott of Israel closed the Tiran Strait and the Suez Canal to Israel, which terminated Israeli shipping through the Red Sea.
The United Nations Security Council ended the blockade in 1956. Egypt's Abdel Nasser renewed the blockade in 1967. Israeli foreign minister Golda Meir (who later became prime minister) declared at the U.N. General Assembly that closure of the Strait of Tiran would be considered by Israel as an act of war.
Israel defeated Egypt and won control of Tiran and Sanafir in the 1967 Six-Day War. The Camp David Accords in 1973 assigned the islands to the "C" international zone, and Israel was guaranteed the right to navigate through the Tiran Strait. Saudi Arabia reasserted its claim to the islands in 1989.
Tensions exist between Biden and the Saudi crown. President Trump had a warm relationship with the king and the crown prince. Since Biden's name-calling and his accusations regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the king and the crown prince do not return Biden's phone calls.
The president's Middle Eastern trip is slated for mid-July. It is reported that President Biden and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman will be in the same room for one event during Biden's Saudi visit. They are not expected to speak.
An event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will include Biden and leaders from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. Throughout June, Bahraini king Hamad bin Issa al Khalifa, Jordan king Abdullah II, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, UAE president Muhammad bin Zayed, Iraq president Mustafa Al Kadhimi, and Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani held meetings in each other's countries about their shared military threat from Iran. Leaders are discussing a military alliance among the countries of the region, including Israel. This might take the form of a Middle Eastern NATO-like organization.
It is anticipated that Biden will ask the Gulf states to increase oil production and to lower prices. In return, it is essential that Biden demonstrate a serious commitment to the security of the Gulf and acknowledge the tangible Iranian threat. The Arabs and the Israelis are anxious that Iran will possess nuclear weapons, which would have a negative impact on the region and on the world.
Israel is Biden's first Middle East stop. The government has collapsed and is acting in a caretaker capacity. Elections will be in October. His priorities do not include President Trump's approach to the peace process. Biden will attempt to reset relations with the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Assistant secretary of state Barbara Leaf is tasked to reassure Palestinians. Biden pledged to reopen the American consulate in Palestinian East Jerusalem, which was closed by President Trump.
Polling data show that Biden's approval ratings are so low that one would need to search pre-WWII records to find a president this unpopular. In November elections, Democrats face losing one and perhaps both houses of Congress. Democrat optimists may believe that Biden's travel to the Middle East will be a foreign policy success, which would impact Democrat chances of remaining in control of Congress.
Should anything positive take place in the Middle East after Biden's four-day July jaunt, it will be acclaimed as a Biden accomplishment. More likely, the trip will be a series of photo ops. Amazingly, some in the American media are effusing about a Biden Nobel Peace Prize.
Darlene Casella is an internationally published writer, former English teacher, stockbroker, and owner/president of a small corporation. She is active with Republican Women Federated, the Coachella Valley Lincoln Club, the California Republican Party, PEO, Armed Services YMCA-29 Palms Marine Base. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.