Eyal Hulata
Eyal Hulata Danny Shem Tov, Knesset spokesperson

Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata said in a closed lecture to the board of governors of Tel Aviv University on Thursday that Western countries should stop pressuring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on human rights, a source who attended the remarks told the Axios news website.

Hulata said that Sisi has more women in his cabinet than many democracies, “and he is still being attacked for being abusive to his people and on issues of civil rights."

In putting increased focus on human rights and democracy, President Biden has kept his distance from the leaders of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Israel sees those countries as central to regional security and countering Iran, noted Axios.

The US canceled $130 million in security assistance for Egypt in January after previously freezing the aid due to human rights concerns, including over the jailing of hundreds of government critics, activists and journalists.

The US has provided Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid annually, of which $300 million is attached to certain conditions.

Axios noted that an annual human rights report from the State Department, released in April, found a litany of abuses from the Egyptian government or its agents, including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and restrictions on free speech.

US-Egypt ties were strained under the Obama administration, which suspended American military aid to Egypt following the 2013 ouster of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, before releasing it two years later.

Following the election of Donald Trump, however, ties improved. Sisi praised Trump after his election and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.

Biden's administration last August called Egypt a "constructive" defense partner despite concerns on human rights.

Axios noted that both Israel and the US view Egypt as a key security partner, and the Israeli government thinks that relationship should be prioritized over human rights concerns.

US national security adviser and White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk visited Cairo this week to meet with Sisi and his advisers.

They discussed "a broad range of global and regional security challenges," and also raised "the importance of tangible and lasting human rights progress in Egypt," the White House said.

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