DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 11, 2016, 10:18 AM (IDT)
Turkish president Tayyip Recep Erdogan has raised another large obstacle on the road to Turkish-Israeli reconciliation and normal ties. Saudi King Salman, who is visiting Cairo, confided to his host Egyptian president Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi that Erdogan had made it clear that he would not finally repair Ankara’s ties with Israel until Sisi came forward to shake his hand, stopped being hostile and turned a new page in their relations.
The king sad that by burying the hatchet with Erdogan, Sisi would pave the way to an accord between Ankara and Jerusalem, on which progress has been made in bilateral negotiations. Members of the royal Saudi entourage in Cairo confirmed the threat from Ankara, that if the Egyptian president continues to disapprove of the Turkish ruler and give him a hard time, Ankara would retaliate by raising more impediments to a rapprochement with Israel.
In this regard, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Sunday cabinet meeting on April 10, “Peace with Egypt is stronger than ever before, standing firm against very tough challenges to both nations.” He went on to say, “The ties between Egypt and Israel provide an important buttress for the national security of both nations.”
Netanyahu did not itemize those “challenges,” but sources were informed that he was beaming a message to the Saudi king and Turkish president, that Israel had every confidence in its strategic pact with President El-Sisi holding up against attempts by Erdogan to drive a wedge between Cairo and Jerusalem.
His comments were also meant to encourage the Egyptian leader to withstand undue pressure coming from King Salman and extortions by the Turkish president.
On one of the issues clouding relations between Cairo and Riyadh, the king denied wholehearted Saudi support for the El-Sisi’s archenemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, ousted from power three years ago in a military coup.
The Israeli question came up in relation to the Egyptian presidential decree ceding ownership to Saudi Arabia of the disputed Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir. These islands are of high strategic value because they control shipping traffic through the Gulf of Aqaba to and from the Israeli port of Eilat and the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters Sunday night, April 10, that his government would not hold negotiations with Israel on those islands. The Kingdom’s commitment included accepting the presence of international forces on the islands under the peace treaty of Egypt and Israel, he said.
He was referring to the Multinational Force Observers – mostly Americans - which have maintained a presence on Tiran to monitor Egypt’s commitment to the freedom of Israeli shipping through the Strait of Tiran under their 1979 peace accords.
By this commitment to the international force’s presence “under the peace treaty of Israel and Egypt,” Saudi Arabia publicly extended implicit endorsement for Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab state 37 years ago.