Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett is in Manama to start a new era of ties between Israel and Bahrain. The two states normalized the ties two years ago, but are yet in deep discrepancies.
After long months of arrangements, Israeli prime minister is making his first visit to Manama these days. The visit occurs after the two states normalized their ties in as part of a wider series of agreements. Former US administration, under Donald Trump, brokered the so-called “Abraham Accords” in 2020.
Based on the schedule, Naftali Bennett and Bahraini Crown Prince will have a meeting today. Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who is also Bahraini Prime Minister, is expected to share security concerns with his Israeli counterpart.
“The leaders will discuss additional ways to strengthen bilateral ties, especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation,” Bennet office explained in a statement before the meeting.
Bennett’s visit to Manama, which hosts the American marine headquarters, occurs at a time when regional tensions are at the height. During the previous months, Houthi forces have implemented revenge operations launching missile assaults on the UAE. The attacks against another party to the Abraham accords affected the regional geo-strategic developments.
Israeli prime minister told reporters prior to the trip that he believed it would send a signal of friendship “and a shared stance against common threats.” Israel and Bahrain have no shared historic, ideological, or security backgrounds. Starting a new era under heavy burden of Bahrain’s commitments to Arab brothers in Palestine, would be a complex process.
Bahrain is one of the countries which went through the so-called Arab spring in early years of the 2010s. Like in Saudi Arabia, and with its help, Bahraini protesters were the target of harsh crackdown by the rulers.
Israel and Bahrain; Deep Rifts despite Apparent Compromise
Tel Aviv has been trying increase its engagement with Persian Gulf countries in recent years. Earlier this month, Manama welcomed Israel’s defense minister. It announced that one Israeli military commander would be stationed in the Arab country as signal of a regional alliance.
Bahrain’s monarch’s approach regarding Israel faced sharp criticism by the Shiite majority-led opposition from the early weeks. Massive demonstrations in support of the Palestinians across the country were indicative of a local national challenge.
Reuters report confirmed that protesters in Bahrain welcomed the Israeli prime minister by getting together in various cities. Hundreds of protestors marched, chanted slogans, and waved Bahraini flags, according to footage and photographs shared on Social media.
Al-Wefaq social media accounts, the dissolved Bahraini political party, had the main share in releasing the contents. Manama might not like such contents go viral as they may affect the negotiation process between of Israel and Bahrain.
Israel has promised to collaborate on air defense with its new Arab allies. Tel Aviv, however, has not said if the initiative will involve supplying the Iron Dome short-range missile interception system.
Such deals have always been hampered by concerns about the security of the equipment and if they would be transferred to Israel’s adversaries. It has also been the concern that it may put an economic strain on US defense sales.
The concerns about the security precautions regarding security ties between Israel and Bahrain remain a salient issue. Israel’s security arrangements with UAE had consequences in Abu Dhabi’s relationships with regional states. Besides, it impacted significant regional developments like the general election in Iraq.
National crisis might be a further side to the Israel-Bahrain expansion of ties. Bahraini people has never recognized Israel as a trustworthy ally.