Israel is planning to lobby the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden not to pressure its regional allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates on matters related to human rights, to avoid harming overt or covert ties the Jewish state is increasingly enjoying, according to a report published Thursday.
Israel views its ties with relatively moderate Arab countries in the region as a potent tool in curbing Iran’s destabilizing influence.
US President Donald Trump has been cultivating those alliances and refraining from criticizing the autocratic regimes, but Biden has vowed to prioritize human rights issues in his foreign policy and is facing pressure from some Democrats to change course.
The Walla news site cited senior Israeli defense officials saying Jerusalem particularly fears Biden will take action against Saudi Arabia over its war in Yemen, in which observers have alleged widespread rights abuses and targeting of civilians.
Riyadh is facing an insurgence by Yemeni Houthi rebels backed by Tehran, and Israel is concerned American actions could strengthen the radical forces in Yemen and increase Iran’s stronghold on the war-stricken country, according to the report.
The Trump administration this week designated the Houthi rebels as a terror group, raising international rights concerns. Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo all welcomed the announcement, but Israel hasn’t commented. Jerusalem is reportedly increasingly concerned Yemen could be used to launch an Iranian attack against Israel.
The Israeli officials reportedly plan to tell Biden that the region has undergone significant changes with Israel’s recent normalization deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, and that the Jewish state hopes Washington will prioritize that process over rights concerns.
The officials were also cited as saying that Israel has in recent weeks encouraged Cairo and Riyadh to take constructive steps on human rights to “improve the atmosphere” and get ready for dialogue with the Biden administration.
Israel will tell Biden that a crisis with those countries risks pushing them closer to Russia and China.
“We were very close to losing Egypt a few years ago,” one defense official told Walla. “Which is why our message to the Biden administration will be: ‘Go slowly, there have been dramatic changes, don’t come with preconceived stances and don’t hurt the relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.”