Bahrain agrees to normalize relations with Israel, Trump announces
L-R: Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is now “working toward the opening of an Israeli embassy in Bahrain,” according to a foreign ministry official.
Bahrain agreed to establish formal relations with Israel in advance of Tuesday’s anticipated historic signing in Washington of an accord to normalize ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.It is likely that a second accord could be signed Tuesday between Israel and Bahrain.US President Donald Trump tweeted the news Friday after he spoke by phone to both Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain agree to a Peace Deal – the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days!,” Trump tweeted.Israel is now “working toward the opening of an Israeli embassy in Bahrain,” according to a Foreign Ministry official.Already on Saturday Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with his Bahrain counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid al Zayani.“I look forward to deepening and strengthening the relations between our two countries. Together we will work towards peace and stability in the Middle East,” Ashkenazi tweeted. On Friday Netanyahu said that more agreements with Arab states would follow the Bahrain agreement, and the one arrived at with the UAE in August.On Saturday night Channel 12 speculated that direct flights between Israel and Morocco would soon be established as part of the growing normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab states. The two countries, however, do not have formal ties. To underscore the speed with which events are unfolding, Netanyahu noted on Friday that it took 26 years, from the signing of a peace deal between Israel and Jordan in 1994, for there to be an existing deal, such as the one with the UAE.After that, he said, it was only another 29 days to make a fourth deal.“This is a new era of peace,” Netanyahu said in a video message, in which he underscored that what is occurring now is “peace for peace” and “economy for economy.”He added, “we have invested in peace for many years and now peace will invest in us. It will lead to very large investments in the Israeli economy and that is very important.These agreements came about as the result of hard behind the scenes work for many years that bore fruit with the “important help of our friend US President Trump,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu leaves for Washington on Sunday and will return to Israel after Tuesday’s signing ceremony at the White House.The ceremony is due to be attended by Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister is also expected to join that ceremony to sign a declaration about ties with Israel.Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Netanyahu will remain mostly in the Blair House while in Washington. It is unlikely as a result that he would meet with Democratic Presidential contender Joe Biden.After Trump’s announcement, the US, along with Israel and Bahrain issued a joint statement.“This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East. Opening direct dialog and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security and prosperity in the region,” it said.Bahrain’s state news agency BNA said on Friday that the King of Bahrain had clarified in his conversation with Trump and Netanyahu, that Bahrain remains committed to the Palestinian cause and the necessity of reaching a fair and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians based on the two-state solution.Bahraini Ambassador to the United States Abdulla R. al-Khalifa tweeted: “The declaration of the establishment of relations between #Bahrain & #Israel is in the interest of the region’s #security, stability and prosperity, it sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of #Israel, that a just and comprehensive peace with the #Palestinian people is the best path and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president called the agreement “a historic breakthrough for the president and also for the world and for those two countries. On the anniversary of 9/11. That is the best thing that we can do to prevent another 9/11 from ever happening: to create peace and to aggressively counter extremism and terrorism. And President Trump has spared no effort in doing that.”In a briefing to the press following Trump’s announcement on the White House-brokered deal, Kushner also addressed questions about the possibility of additional agreements with other MIddle East countries, such as Saudi Arabia.“There’s a new momentum and new hopefulness in the Middle East,” said the senior adviser. “The agreement that we made with the United Arab Emirates and Israel was even more popular than we expected, which is why this next agreement came so quickly. We were not sure what the reaction would be, but it’s been overwhelmingly positive. And more and more countries are rushing to try to figure out how they can do good things for their citizens and create a paradigm for a much more peaceful and prosperous future.”“The leaders in the region recognize that the approach that’s been taken in the past hasn’t worked and they realize that there are people who want to see a more vibrant and exciting future,” Kushner continued. “I do believe that it’s an inevitability that all countries in the Middle East will normalize relations with Israel. It’s a very hard thing. I don’t know the timing on it, but I think people want to see the Middle East move forward. They want to seize the opportunity.”“I think that this will help reduce tension in the Muslim world and allow people to separate the Palestinian issue from their own national interests – from their foreign policy, which should be focused on their domestic priorities. And so I think you’re going to continue to see momentum,” he added.ISRAEL’S AMBASSADOR to the UN Gilad Erdan tweeted: “Another historic day for Israel and the Arab world. Congratulations to PM @netanyahu, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Salman, President @realDonaldTrump, and @jaredkushner on this tremendous achievement. We are witnessing the beginning of a new era in the Middle East!” Erdan later had a conversation with Bahrain’s ambassador to the UN, Jamal Fares Alrowaiei. Israel’s Mission to the UN called the conversation “warm” and said that the two congratulated each other. The two reportedly “also agreed to meet to discuss cooperation in the UN on issues of innovation and economic development for the benefit of the two countries.”“Expanding the circle of peace in the Middle East can lead to a change at the UN as well,” Erdan said. “We are entering a new era in which we can publicly work together on security issues and the economic prosperity of Israel and the Arab countries. Together, we will face the challenges that threaten stability in the Middle East.”Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser also tweeted about the historic event.“Last week Jared met King Hamad al Khalifa and Crown Prince Salman, a beautiful foreshadowing of today’s historic peace deal between Israel & Bahrain, establishing FULL diplomatic relations,” she tweeted.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the agreement demonstrates that “there is clear momentum for a new Middle East.”Ebrahim Dahood Nonoo, the head of the Jewish community in Bahrain, praised the agreement.“On this historic occasion of furthering peace in the Middle East, and the joint statement of the United States, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the State of Israel, the Bahraini Jewish Community, congratulates our leadership on this momentous occasion,” Nonoo wrote. “The Bahraini Jewish Community is an indigenous community having been in Bahrain since the late 19th century. Although our numbers are small, we are very well integrated into the fabric of the society, both in business and in culture.”British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the agreement between Bahrain and Israel “excellent news.”Stopping short of endorsing the agreement, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Israel needs to halt actions that “undermine the two-state solution.”Egypt’s president on Friday said he appreciates the “important step” of Israel and Bahrain establishing diplomatic relations.The agreement, announced on Friday, would help establish “stability and peace in the Middle East, in a way that achieves a just and permanent settlement of the Palestinian issue,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Twitter.The forging of relations with Israel is happening against a backdrop of shared fears about the threat that Iran may pose to the region. The biggest question now is whether Saudi Arabia, one of the Middle East’s most influential countries and a close US ally, will follow suit.Trump’s administration has tried to coax other Sunni Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, to engage with Israel. Saudi Arabia, a key Sunni rival to Shi’ite Iran, has so far signaled it is not ready.The agreements are taking place as Republican Trump trails Biden in several opinion polls ahead of the US election. Foreign policy has not figured prominently in the election campaign, but Trump is eager to present himself as a peacemaker even as he rattles sabers against Iran.Trump’s pro-Israel moves have been seen, in part, as an effort to bolster his appeal to evangelical Christian voters, an important segment of his political base.Zaha Hassan, a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Bahrain’s move was “especially disturbing” to Palestinians.”This move could not happen without a Saudi green light,” she added. “[Saudi Arabia] is under pressure to normalize, but cannot because of its position as the custodian of Islam’s holy places and the unpopularity of it on the street level. Bahrain was offered up as a consolation that will keep Saudi Arabia in Trump’s good graces.”Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.