Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Reuters

Sources in Israel have lowered their expectations regarding the tightening of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia ahead of US President Joe Biden's upcoming Middle East trip.

"The hope for a breakthrough in relations with Saudi Arabia is understandable, but not realistic," the sources told Israel Hayom.

They noted that the US administration has attempted to advance a list of topics and ideas ahead of Biden's visit, including the creation of a regional defense pact to protect against rocket and missiles in cooperation with Israel.

According to Israel Hayom, one issue which was agreed upon and which will likely be announced during the visit is that ownership of Tiran Island and Sanafir Island will be transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in exchange for permission for Israeli planes to fly over Saudi Arabia's airspace.

Until now, Saudi Arabia only permitted Israeli flights to the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain to use its airspace, as a sort of indirect participation in the Abraham Accords. The new permission will significantly shorten the duration of flights between Israel and destinations such as Thailand and Hong Kong, and allow Israeli airlines to fly directly to Japan and Australia as well.

Tiran and Sanafir are an integral part of the peace agreement signed between Israel and Egypt, and there is an international command force on the islands. It was therefore necessary for Israel to approve their transfer to Saudi Arabia. Israel granted the approval, on condition that the straits of Tiran remain open and that Israel maintain civil and military freedom of movement in the area. Saudi Arabia refused to give Israel a direct letter promising this since such a document would be the first direct agreement between the two nations. Instead, it was agreed that Saudi Arabia will make the promise to the US, and the US will make the promise to Israel.