Egyptians are not happy with the recent the return of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA). The idea caused a commotion last year when King Salman al-Saud made a visit to Egypt. Now that deal is to be finalized by President Fatah el-Sisi and the Egyptian Parliament leading to concerns over security.

The Egyptian military has reportedly closed numerous websites:

https://twitter.com/MadaMasr/status/873985667243667456https://twitter.com/MadaMasr/status/873985667243667456

That is quite a preemptive measure to take. It also indicates the decisions have already been made and they aren’t going to be popular.

The reaction from some Egyptians has been critical but there hasn’t been much in the way of organization to protest on social media, which is the next logical thing to be taken away from Egyptians by their government.

This reads “Merchants of the Earth”

ABC News International reported on the exchanges inside parliament Sunday, saying:

Speaker Ali Abdel-Al, a staunch el-Sissi supporter who runs the house with an iron fist, struggled to keep order in the meeting, with committee members arguing over whether reviewing the agreement was appropriate given the January court ruling. There were also disputes over whether media should be permitted access to the chamber while the discussions were ongoing.

The other side of this debate is saying:

We have martyrs who gave their lives in defense of that territory. If the Saudis think they (the islands) are theirs, then why now? And what’s the price?” prominent novelist and lawmaker Youssef al-Qaeed said in comments published Sunday. “This is truly a calamity because no one, absolutely no one, has the right to surrender a grain of sand from Egypt’s barren desert, no matter what the justifications are.”

This is an old sore spot for many in the region. Here’s what the New York Times said about the same islands in 1982 when Israel and Egypt agreed under the Multinational Force Observers (MFO) established at the Camp David Accord. The island is of great strategic consequence to Israeli naval mobility.

The two islands were transferred by Saudi Arabia to Egyptian control in 1950 because the Saudis feared an Israeli attempt to seize them. Along with the rest of Sinai, they fell under Israeli control in the 1967 war, but Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Fahd said recently that he would ask Egypt, after regaining them in April, to return them to Saudi sovereignty.

Israel fears that Egypt, attempting to repair relations with the Saudis, might make such a transfer, and has told the Egyptian Government firmly that this would constitute a violation of the peace treaty.

It is unclear how Israel will react to the violation of the MFO. It could turn out to be signaling an even closer rapprochement with the KSA and Israel as rumors of secret meetings between the 3 countries have swirled over the last year. Reuters published this not-so-subtle headline:

Israel gives blessing to Egypt’s return of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

Which could be the real motivation behind the Egyptian government’s pending crackdown. Egypt has been dealing with the return of the Muslim Brotherhood since the Arab Spring in 2011.

Much remains up in the air, but it is certainly a situation worth keeping an eye on.