1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
PoliticsMiddle East

Bahrain foreign minister in Israel for historic visit

November 18, 2020

Bahrain has agreed to recognize Israel under a US-brokered deal. Both countries see Iran as a threat to stability in the Middle East.

Symbolbild Flaggen Israel Bahrain
Image: Nir Elias/REUTERS

Bahrain's foreign minister visited Israel on Wednesday for the Gulf kingdom's first diplomatic visitsince it agreed to recognize the Jewish state in September.

Israeli television broadcast the arrival of Abdellatif al-Zayani at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, where he was greeted by his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

Alzayani called the visit "a strategic start to enhancing joint cooperation" between the countries, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

"The Middle East has witnessed conflicts and instability over the past decades," he said. "The time has come for us to pursue other policies to reach a comprehensive solution."

Bahrain, along with the United Arab Emirates, signed US-backed "normalization" accords with Israel at the White House on September 15.

It indicated a longstanding shift in policy among some Arab states, which had previously said that they would not recognize Israel until it found a peaceful solution with the Palestinians.

Bahrain and the UAE agreed to recognize Israel in September 2020.
Bahrain and the UAE agreed to recognize Israel in September 2020.Image: Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/Pool via CNP

Three allies meet

Zayani met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem.

Zayani and Netanyahu agreed to open embassies, establish online visa systems and launch weekly flights between the two nations.

Israel's Ashkenazi, who will visit Bahrain next month, said opening ceremonies for the embassies would be held by the end of 2020.

Zayani called for  fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "To achieve and consolidate such a peace, the Palestinian and Israeli conflict needs to be resolved," he said the minister said alongside Pompeo and Netanyahu.

"I therefore call for both parties to get around the negotiating table to achieve a viable two-state solution."

Pompeo said: The normalisation deals "tell malign actors like the Islamic Republic of Iran that their influence in the region is waning and that they are ever more isolated and shall forever be until they change their direction."

During his two-days in the region, Pompeo was expected to make the first visit by a senior US official to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

All Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.

The United States enjoys close ties with Bahrain, the base of operations for its Navy's 5th Fleet where it keeps a large military base.

The tiny but strategic kingdom is just across the Gulf from Iran, which all three allies see as a common threat to stability in the region.

On Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent an official invitation to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayad Al-Nahyan, seen by many as the UAE's de facto ruler.

Trump brokered normalization deals

Sudan also agreed to establish ties with Israel as part of a larger agreement with the United States that will pave the way for much-needed foreign aid following last year’s overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir.

The Trump administration hailed all three agreements as historic breakthroughs in the lead-up to the election.

Read more:  From North Korea to Middle East: Donald Trump's diplomacy evaluated

President-elect Joe Biden also welcomed the agreements, and is expected to build on them as he presses Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations.

Prior to these agreements, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab states with full diplomatic relations with Israel, as part of peace treaties negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Israel wants to improve ties with the Gulf countries, aiming for cooperation across various fields, including tourism and public health.

aw, jf/msh (AP, AFP)