After the United Arab Emirates in mid-August, the tiny kingdom of Bahrain is the second Gulf state to establish diplomatic relations with the former enemy, Israel. The announcement was made Friday by Donald Trump from the White House, where next Tuesday the US President is to receive for an official ceremony the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the UAE’s chief diplomat Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al- Nayan, who is expected to be joined by Bahraini Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.
“Another historic breakthrough today! Our two great friends Israel and Bahrain have concluded a peace agreement ”, tweeted the US president. “Citizens of Israel, I am moved to inform you that tonight we will reach another peace agreement with another Arab country, Bahrain. This agreement is in addition to the historic peace with the United Arab Emirates ”, Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Shortly before, Israeli journalists had leaked this news, which is not really a surprise. The kingdom of Bahrain, which has a small Jewish community, has never – in recent years at least – been hostile to Israel, with which it shares the same fear vis-à-vis Iran. This fear is all the stronger given that Bahrain is the only Gulf state to have a Shiite majority population, often still discriminated against by Sunni power.
A success for Donald Trump
Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, is very close to Saudi Arabia. Asked in recent weeks by the United States to follow in Abu Dhabi’s footsteps, Riyadh – the real Gulf heavyweight – said no, King Salman recalling the traditional attachment of the Saudi kingdom – guardian of the holiest places of the Islam – to the Palestinian cause and to a settlement based on the two-state solution. At the end of the recent tour in the Gulf, but also in Sudan, of the head of American diplomacy Mike Pompeo, Bahrain had, however, also seemed to say no to the American request to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Since then, intense pressure must have been exerted behind the scenes.
If it will not fundamentally change the diplomatic situation, this new advance is above all a success that Donald Trump can display, less than two months from a presidential election with a very uncertain outcome. Given Bahrain’s dependence on Arabia, the normalization of relations between Manama and Tel Aviv could not be achieved without Saudi backing. One way probably to compensate for the niet of Donald Trump’s Saudi ally.
“The King of Bahrain was the first to propose last year to the Saudis and the UAE to make an offer of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, recalls an observer contacted by telephone in Manama. A conference was then held in Bahrain, but the Palestinians refused to participate. Donald Trump then put tremendous pressure. The Emirates then took the lead in recognizing Israel, decrypts the observer, but in Bahrain, we have always got on well with the Israelis who are called cousins. ”