Published on : 12/09/2020 – 11:32Modified : 12/09/2020 – 11:33
Contacts between Bahrain and Israel, discreet since the 1990s, have intensified in recent years until a historic agreement to normalize relations between the two countries announced on Friday.
After having announced the normalization of its relations with Israel, Friday September 11, Bahrain becomes the second Gulf country to announce an agreement of this type, less than a month later that between the Hebrew State and the United Arab Emirates.
Like most Gulf countries, Bahrain shares hostility with Israel towards Iran, accused by Manama of instrumentalizing Bahrain’s Shiite community against the ruling Sunni dynasty.
After years of discreet contacts, Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa began official diplomacy by speaking with Israeli officials at World Economic Forum summits in 2000 and 2003.
The foreign ministers of the two countries met in 2007. Two years later, Israeli President Shimon Peres and the King of Bahrain also discussed in New York, on the sidelines of a UN conference. That same year, a delegation of Bahraini officials visited Israel on an unprecedented trip to recover nationals detained by the Hebrew state.
The Bahraini parliament, ignoring the government’s objections, passed legislation in October 2009 to ban all contact with Israel. The law had to be approved by an advisory council appointed by the king, which rejected it.
Support for Israel’s right to “defend itself”
The Arab Spring of 2011 slowed normalization efforts between the two countries, with the monarchy facing major protests led by the Shia community to demand reforms.
In September 2016, the Bahraini Foreign Minister paid tribute to Shimon Peres upon the death of the Israeli leader.
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In 2017, an Israeli delegation was authorized to participate in the Congress of the International Football Federation (FIFA) in Manama. The same year, a Bahraini interfaith group announced that it had sent a delegation to Israel to promote “tolerance and coexistence”.
In May 2018, Bahrain’s foreign minister backed Israel’s right to “defend itself” after the IDF claimed to have targeted dozens of Iranian military targets in warring Syria where Tehran supports the regime .
First Gulf country to welcome Israel-UAE deal
In June 2019, an economic workshop organized by the United States in Bahrain opened the door to a rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf countries. In an unprecedented interview with an Israeli journalist, the Bahraini foreign minister said Israel was part of the regional heritage.
A month later, the Israeli foreign minister announced that he had met his Bahraini counterpart during a visit to Washington.
In October 2019, representatives from more than 60 countries, including Israel, gathered in Bahrain to discuss maritime security.
Bahrain was the first Gulf country to hail the “historic” agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, announced on August 13.
King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, however, told the US Secretary of State visiting the kingdom that he remained committed to the Arab peace initiative, which demands a total withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Manama still allowed planes between Israel and the Emirates to fly over his kingdom.