Israeli leader, Naftali Bennett, Meets Bahrain Counterpart, Signaling Regional Shift

Israeli chief, Naftali Bennett, Meets Bahrain Counterpart, Signaling Regional Shift

MANAMA, Bahrain — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel met Tuesday in Bahrain together with his Bahraini counterpart, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a part of a heat welcome that supplied the most recent proof of the speedy and up to date realignment of Middle Eastern politics.

Mr. Bennett was scheduled to fulfill later within the afternoon with the prince’s father, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the pinnacle of state in Bahrain, a tiny however strategically situated Gulf state.

Earlier than assembly the royal household, Mr. Bennett met with members of Bahrain’s small Jewish group. Mr. Bennett gave them a shofar, the Jewish musical horn.

“I’m very delighted to be right here in Bahrain, and I might consider no higher strategy to kick off this go to than seeing my household right here in Bahrain,” he mentioned. “All of you might be certainly household. I come from Israel with good will, with heat friendship between the 2 peoples, and I’m positive you is usually a outstanding bridge between Bahrain and Israel.”

The journey to Bahrain by Mr. Bennett, the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to the country, showcased the rising energy of ties between Israel and a number of other Arab governments over the past 18 months.

Since 2020, Israel has established formal diplomatic relations for the primary time with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, re-established relations with Morocco, and improved them with Sudan.

For years, the overwhelming majority of the Arab world refused to normalize relations with Israel so long as the Israeli-Palestinian battle remained unresolved.

Mr. Bennett arrived in Bahrain on Monday night time, descending from his airplane to a purple carpet lined by a guard of honor, a greeting that highlights how priorities have modified for some international locations within the area.

For Bahrain, the containment of Iran and its armed proxies all through the area — a aim shared with Israel — is now of higher significance than Palestinian sovereignty, significantly as Iran accelerates its nuclear enrichment.

Bahrain, which can be an ally of america and hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, will for the primary time host an Israeli army officer as a part of a regional alliance, an Israeli official confirmed Tuesday. The aim is to make sure freedom of navigation and worldwide commerce within the Persian Gulf, following several attacks by Iran and its proxies on ships in the area.

Bahrain’s invitation to Mr. Bennett additionally hinted at rising acceptance of Israel’s position within the area by Saudi Arabia, essentially the most influential state within the Arab world and a serious Iranian rival.

Formally, Saudi officers deny that the dominion plans to observe Bahrain by normalizing ties with Israel. The dominion has additionally denied that the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, hosted a secret summit meeting in 2020 with Mr. Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was nonetheless in workplace on the time.

However Saudi help is essential for Bahrain — Saudi troops rushed to Bahrain in 2011 to assist its authorities crush an rebellion, and the Saudi authorities bailed out the Bahraini economic system in 2018 — and analysts say that Bahrain, as a Saudi proxy, does little with out its settlement.

“Bahrain is all the time wanting as much as Saudi Arabia as their huge brother that all the time stands by them in instances of difficulties,” mentioned Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati political scientist and knowledgeable on Gulf politics.

Mr. Abdulla added, “There’s extra coordination than many individuals would assume between Bahrain, Saudi Arabia” and different Gulf States.

Main Saudis have additionally made statements about Israel and the Palestinians that may have been unthinkable till solely just lately. In 2018, Prince Mohammed made headlines by asserting that Israelis had a right to their own land. Two years later, one other Saudi prince, Bandar bin Sultan, criticized the Palestinian management as failing unusual Palestinians.

Saudi film theaters are at present exhibiting a characteristic movie, “Dying on the Nile,” that stars an Israeli actress, Gal Gadot, who’s unpopular within the Arab world for her public help of Israeli army motion in Gaza.

Ties are additionally warming between Israel and the 2 Arab international locations with which it had beforehand solid an uneasy peace, Egypt and Jordan.

President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt drew discover in Israel on Monday when he made a present of publicly greeting a visiting Israeli authorities minister, Karine Elharrar, in entrance of a whole lot of different Arab dignitaries.

But when bonds between governments are strengthening, the sentiment among the many common public in Israel and the Arab world is lagging.

Polling suggests a majority of Arabs don’t help the latest diplomatic thaw in Israel. In Bahrain, the place dissent is fastidiously contained, photographs and movies posted to social media on Tuesday confirmed small teams of demonstrators protesting towards the Bahraini authorities and Israel.

Worldwide rights watchdogs say Bahrain has no free information media and that its judges are appointed by the royal family. The Khalifa household is a Sunni Muslim dynasty that has dominated Bahrain since 1783, presiding over a primarily Shia citizenry, whose members say they endure systemic sectarian discrimination.

Exiled Bahraini rights activists famous that Mr. Bennett’s go to fell on the eleventh anniversary of the 2011 rebellion, they usually known as it a betrayal of the Palestinian nationwide motion and an endorsement of Israel’s insurance policies towards it.

“It appears like a damning insult,” mentioned Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director on the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, a London-based marketing campaign group. “That is an important date in Bahrain’s latest historical past, when Bahrainis stood up towards an autocracy — and 11 years later they’ve invited the pinnacle of an apartheid state.”

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