Israeli Foreign Minister has landed in Bahrain for the first high-level visit to the small Gulf state by a senior official since signing a landmark agreement to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries last year
JERUSALEM – Israel’s Foreign Minister arrived in Bahrain on Thursday, the first high-level visit to the small Gulf state by a senior Israeli official since signing a landmark agreement last year to establish diplomatic relations .
Yair Lapid landed in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, to meet his Bahraini counterpart and inaugurate the Israeli embassy. It was the first official visit by a member of the Israeli Cabinet.
After Lapid landed, Bahrain’s carrier Gulf Air launched its first direct flight between Manama and Tel Aviv.
The Israeli diplomatic delegation was due to meet its Bahraini counterparts and sign a series of agreements to strengthen bilateral relations, including economic agreements and cooperation between hospitals and water companies. The two countries have long had covert security ties over a shared distrust of their regional rival Iran, but it wasn’t until last year that the relationship was made public.
“We see Bahrain as an important partner, both bilaterally but also as a bridge to cooperation with other countries in the region,” said Lior Haiat, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Israel established formal diplomatic relations with four Arab states last year under the “Abraham Accords” negotiated by the United States. Lapid has visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco before and has opened Israeli diplomatic offices there since becoming Israel’s foreign minister in June.
Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel arrived earlier this month and presented his credentials to the leading figure of the Israeli president on the anniversary of the signing of the agreements.
The agreements to establish relations with Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates were the first peace agreements between Israel and the Arab states in decades, following the peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan. in 1995.
The accords infuriated the Palestinians, who felt a betrayal of their national cause. They saw it as an abandonment of a long-standing commitment in the Arab world not to normalize relations with Israel until there is progress in resolving the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.
The Israeli delegation arrived earlier this week and joined the small Jewish community of Bahrain to mark the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. Haiat said it was the first time in more than 75 years that the community was able to celebrate the holiday in their synagogue.
“The fact that we were able to celebrate it yesterday was a very joyful event for us and for the community as well,” he said.