The Boiling Water of the Red Sea: Power Struggles and Israel’s Interests

September 2018

The Red Sea basin includes 12 states with a combined population of around 300 million. On the eastern shore lie Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel share the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba. On the African coast of the Red Sea are Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti. The Red Sea basin also includes Ethiopia, with no direct access to the sea, as well as Somaliland and Somalia, which are located in the Gulf of Aden, opposite the shores of Yemen, at the entrance to the Red Sea. In geographical terms, the Red Sea divides between Africa in the west and Asia in the east, and forms part of the Syrian-African rift. In geopolitical terms, throughout history the Red Sea served as one of the most vital trade routes in the world, connecting Europe and the west on the one hand with the Middle East on the other. Today it is the busiest trade route in the world. For this reason, Egypt is of particular importance in the territory of the Red Sea – it constitutes a bridge between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean – as are Yemen, Djibouti, and Somalia, which are located on both sides of the straits of Bab al-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden, at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. Likewise, the Red Sea was the maritime route via which every year millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world made their way to Mecca and al-Medina, the two holiest cities of Islam, which are located in Saudi Arabia.

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