Senior Israeli and Saudi officials recently held several phone calls to discuss the Biden administration’s plans to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, Israeli television reported Tuesday.
During the conversations, the Saudis expressed concern over the new US administration and lamented its focus on human rights violations in the kingdom, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Israel has no diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia but has maintained long had clandestine ties that have strengthened in recent years, as the two countries have confronted a shared threat in Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Red Sea city of Neom on November 22, along with then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
Since September, Israel has struck normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, with US officials saying a deal with Saudi Arabia is “inevitable.” Saudi officials, however, have said a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians must precede recognition of the Jewish state.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at his confirmation hearing that the new administration will consult with Israel and Arab allies in the Middle East before making any decision on reentering the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, which president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
The White House also said last week that President Joe Biden will “recalibrate” US relations with Saudi Arabia and speak with King Salman and not with Prince Mohammed, the Gulf kingdom’s de-facto ruler. The prince has faced criticism from US lawmakers for his alleged role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi Arabia’s military involvement in Yemen against Iran-backed rebels.
According to a report last month, Israel was planning to lobby the Biden administration not to pressure regional allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates on matters related to human rights, fearing that doing so could imperil the Jewish state’s improved ties with some Arab countries and strengthen Iran.