Israel and Bahrain formalise relations at ceremony in Manama | Israel
Bahrain and Israel signed a joint communique during an Israeli and US delegation visit to Manama to formalize the relationship and expand the cooperation that Washington has fostered as a bulwark against Iran and potential economic recovery.
Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to agree last month to normalize relations with Israel in US-brokered deals and impressed the Palestinians, who had called for statehood prior to such regional rapprochement.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were the third and fourth Arab states to agree to normalize relations with Israel, following the 1979 Egyptian peace agreement with Israel and a 1994 pact with Jordan.
For the US allies, it is an opportunity to shut down Iran more openly.
The Israeli delegation, which flew from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on an El Al Israel Airlines charter flight, was accompanied by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“It was indeed a historic visit to establish relations between the two countries,” said Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani after the signing ceremony with the Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Alon Ushpiz, and National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat.
Al-Zayani touched the elbows with Ben-Shabbat, who described the move as a “promising start” and said the Israeli delegation had been welcomed with “open arms, warmth and cordiality.”
An Israeli delegation signs an agreement with Bahraini officials [Ronen Zvulun/Pool/Reuters]Israel and Bahrain, hosts of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, signed the so-called “Abraham Accords”, a document that did not correspond to a formal treaty, at a ceremony in the White House on September 15.
The deal has angered Bahraini people at home and abroad. The government of Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim minority rules a Shiite majority population, has stated that the agreement will protect its interests from Iran.
Al-Zayani said engagement and cooperation are the most effective and sustainable ways to achieve real and lasting peace in the region and that his country supports the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through dialogue.
Mnuchin described the agreement as an important step towards regional stability and “just the beginning of future work”.
“I think the opportunity goes well beyond investment,” Mnuchin previously told reporters on the El Al flight.
“It’s about technology, building different businesses – and in the case of Bahrain, really, pretty, pretty dramatically expanding the possibilities for them.”
Several memorandums of understanding were also signed at the ceremony. They cover trade, aviation, telecommunications, finance, banking and agriculture, according to a list from a Bahraini official.
Houda Nounoo, a Bahraini diplomat, told reporters that the Gulf state had plans to officially reopen Manama’s old synagogue, with a Jewish community of 34, for the Purim festival on February 25.
Ben-Shabbat, who spoke in Arabic at an arrival ceremony at Manama Airport, said Israel was looking forward to receiving a Bahraini delegation to Israel soon.
The El Al flight flew over Saudi Arabia, accommodation at the Gulf power plant, which has so far defied US appeals to normalize relations with Israel.
Mnuchin and the other US officials travel to the UAE on Monday, where the agreement with Israel has uncorked bilateral trade. On Tuesday, US dignitaries will join the UAE’s first delegation to Israel.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates will sign a contract on Tuesday for 28 weekly commercial flights between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Israeli Ministry of Transport said on Sunday.
The Palestinian leadership has condemned the normalization agreement with Israel in the Gulf as a “stab in the back” for Palestinian efforts to establish an independent state of their own.
The deals mark a marked shift in a decades-old status quo in which Arab countries have tried to maintain unity against Israel through the treatment of stateless Palestinians.
Many Arab states say they remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative – which calls for Israel’s full withdrawal from the post-1967 occupied Palestinian territories in exchange for peace and the full normalization of relations. However, there was speculation that some countries in the region would soon join the platoon.
Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that more Middle Eastern states want relations with Israel as priorities have shifted, arguing that countries are now appreciating lucrative trade opportunities over the Palestinian conflict.
However, the main actor Saudi Arabia has stated that it will not follow its allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in building diplomatic ties without finding a solution to the Palestinian issue.