Democrats have raised concerns regarding human rights and Saudi demands in the Senate concerning President Biden’s push to develop a cordial partnership between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Members of Congress, led by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, have written to President Biden to express their concern that the Senate will need to approve some aspects of the defense agreement currently being negotiated by the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government was called out for being autocratic and having a disturbing track record on human rights and an assertive foreign policy agenda.
Biden has worked to mend ties with Saudi Arabia, which had grown chilly after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post. During the escalation of the worldwide struggle between the United States, Russia, and China over the Ukraine conflict, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely believed to have been responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
The senators are troubled about the consequences of providing a U.S. security guarantee to a regime with such a record of violent repression. Since 2015, Bin Salman has been King Salman’s de facto heir apparent and has held great power. He has made it his mission to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil exports and establish the country as a global center for commerce, tourism, and culture.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a right-wing coalition government that has led to further Israeli entrenchment in the West Bank and given a platform to right-wing ministers who have stoked violent tensions with the Palestinians. Lawmakers are concerned that Palestinian rights could be left behind in a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The senators demand that Israel end all settlement activity, including growth, and remove all unlawful outposts from the West Bank. In addition, they require that Israel make it simpler for Palestinians to move around between geographically connected places.
Another source of concern is the possibility of U.S. military participation in Saudi Arabia, especially in light of allegations of war crimes committed by Riyadh during the conflict in Yemen. While the United States is attempting to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, the senators are worried that a deal could aid a civil nuclear program in Saudi Arabia.
Lawmakers demanded that any deal with Saudi Arabia on its domestic nuclear program follow the “gold standard” 123 Agreement, which stipulates that a country must commit to nine nonproliferation standards in exchange for American aid in developing the program.