Israel plans to lobby the incoming Biden administration to avoid confrontations over human rights and other contentious issues with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, a senior Israeli defense official told me.
Why is it important: Elected President Biden has pledged to keep human rights and democracy at the forefront of US foreign policy, and he skipped all three when he called the leaders of 17 countries after his election victory. He especially criticized Saudi Arabia during his campaign for war in Yemen and human rights issues.
- Israel sees security and intelligence relations with the three countries as the center of a strategy to counter Iran and as a key pillar of regional security.
- Israel now fears Biden will not only seek a deal with Iran. But also good relations with America̵7;s Arab allies.
News Driving: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt welcomed the controversial decision this week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization.
- Israel made no stand in that decision, which some Democrats are lobbying for Biden to back off – but has focused on the situation in Yemen in recent weeks.
- The cause is partly due to the threat from Iranian-backed Houthis over Israeli shipments in the Red Sea. But it was largely due to the impact of Iran’s further adherence in the country for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Israeli officials said.
- Things to see: The Israelis know that Biden will have a different policy on Yemen than Trump, especially when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s role in the war. But they plan to support the new government to ensure policy changes do not deepen Iranian influence or jeopardize regional cooperation among other issues.
background: Israeli defense officials told me they plan to prosecute the Biden administration that the region has changed in the past four years, with a new regional coalition formed as Israel strengthens ties with Arab countries.
- Israel hopes the new government will prioritize the process, taking into account concerns about war in Yemen or human rights abuses.
- On the one hand: Officials said Israel encouraged Egypt and Saudi Arabia to take action on human rights issues to improve the climate in talks with the Biden administration.
- On the other side: They also plan to warn Biden’s team that the crisis in relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt could push the country away from the United States and into Russia and China.
What they say: “We were on the verge of losing Egypt years ago and our message to the Biden administration was: ‘Take it slowly, change a lot, don’t come with a tendency and don’t jeopardize our relations with Saudi Arabia. Egypt and the UAE, ”a senior Israeli official told me.