The move comes almost a month after UAE decided to normalise relations with traditional Arab foe
TEL AVIV/MANAMA – Bahrain became the latest Arab nation on Friday to agree to normalise relations with arch-rival Israel. The announcement was made through a joint statement issued by the United States, Bahrain and Israel. It said the agreement was reached after US President Donald Trump spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Friday.
Joint Statement of the United States, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the State of Israel pic.twitter.com/xMquRkGtpM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2020
With this, Bahrain joins the ranks of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which signed peace deal with Israel last month, and Egypt and Jordan who already have diplomatic ties with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority condemned Bahrain’s move and recalled the Palestinian ambassador to Bahrain for consultations. “The Palestinian leadership strongly rejects and condemns the American-Bahraini-Israeli tripartite declaration on the normalisation of relations between the occupying state of Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain,” the Palestinian Authority said in a statement.
The statement called the move “a betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause”. It added that Bahrain’s step blows up the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of Arab and Islamic summits.
The Islamic Hamas movement and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also slammed the development.
However, Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani, was quoted by the Bahrain News Agency as describing the deal with Israel as pragmatic in facing the strategic challenges and protecting national interests. The minister claimed the deal achieves the goals of the Arab Peace Initiative that will help promote security and stability in the region.
Like the UAE agreement, Friday’s Bahrain-Israel deal aims at normalising diplomatic, commercial, security and other relations between the two countries. Bahrain, along with Saudi Arabia, had already dropped a prohibition on Israeli flights using its airspace.
The UAE-Israel deal agreed upon on August 13 will formally be signed at a White House ceremony on September 15 hosted by Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3. The ceremony is due to be attended by Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Friday’s joint statement said Al Zayani, the Bahraini Foreign Minister, will join that ceremony and sign a “historic Declaration of Peace” with Netanyahu.
The joint statement only made passing mention of the Palestinians, who fear the moves by Bahrain and the UAE will weaken a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Trump hailed the new deal through a Tweet: “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.”
Bahrain’s King Hamad reiterated the necessity of reaching a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on the two-state solution.
“This is a new era of peace,” Netanyahu said in the statement. “These agreements come after years of concerted work behind the scenes.”
The agreement with Bahrain and the previous one with the UAE are seen as part of Trump’s push to improve Israel’s international standing and its position in the Middle East.
The UAE welcomed the decision saying that it hoped it would have a positive effect on peace and cooperation in the region and around the world. “The move represents a significant step towards an era of security and prosperity … (and) would expand the scope of economic, cultural, scientific, and diplomatic avenues of cooperation,” the UAE Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Reaction from Iran was on expected lines. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, special adviser on international affairs to the speaker of Iran’s parliament and former deputy foreign minister, tweeted saying Bahrain’s agreement with Israel is a “great betrayal of the Islamic cause and Palestinians”.