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PoliticsMiddle East

Bahrain foreign minister announces landmark Israel trip

November 16, 2020

It will be the first visit since Bahrain established diplomatic ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal. Abdullatif Al-Zayani will hold bilateral discussions with Israeli officials to follow up on the agreement.

Foreign Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid AlZayani (R) and Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat (L) sign a host of cooperation agreements as part of their normalization deal, in Manama, Bahrain on October 18, 2020
Image: US Embassy in Bahrain

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani will travel to Israel on Wednesday in a landmark visit to formalize ties with the former foe. It will be the first-ever official visit by a Bahrain delegation to Israel.

Diplomatic sources said Monday that Al-Zayani will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Bahrain and Israel agreed to establish formal ties after the US brokered a deal on September 15. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sudan have also formalized diplomatic relations with Israel.

Read more: Sudan to normalize ties with Israel, says US

Increased cooperation

In September, Bahrain and the UAE also signed memoranda of understanding to regulate cooperation in areas including politics, agriculture, commerce, information technology and visas.

"The visit comes to affirm Bahrain's firm and permanent position towards supporting the peace process in the Middle East region, and to shed light on economic opportunities and bilateral agreements with Israel," according to the official Bahrain News Agency.

Paradigm shift in the Middle East

The Bahrain-Israel deal announcement in September came after two weeks of intense lobbying on the part of the Trump Administration, particularly the president's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom personally visited the king and crown prince of Bahrain, urging them to open full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Read more: Opinion: Trump scores as Israel signs UAE, Bahrain deals

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Trump's "policy of peace through strength has changed the world profoundly for the better," adding, "We're seeing the paradigm of the Middle East completely change in a very positive way."

When the UAE announced it would normalize relations with Israel in August, it became the first Arab state to do so in more than 20 years — on September 15, the UAE and Bahrain followed in the footsteps of Egypt and Jordan. Trump has maintained that other Arab states will join as well.

Saudi Arabia has said it has no plans to pursue that route at this time — though the kingdom will now allow Israeli commercial air traffic to use its airspace.

Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which sent troops to help the tiny island state put down unrest that erupted there, as well as in neighboring Kuwait and the UAE during the Arab Spring. Bahrain is also home to two US military bases.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both condemned the Bahrain-Israel deal as yet another "stab in the back to the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people."

Read more: Palestinians quit Arab League role over UAE-Bahrain-Israel deal

shs/rt  (Reuters, dpa)