Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with King Hamid bin Issa al Khalifa at the royal palace in the Bahraini capital of Manama today in the first visit by an Israeli minister to the island kingdom.
During his historic visit to the country, Lapid was also scheduled to officially inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in the Gulf state that established diplomatic relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords in September 2020.
Prior to his visit to Bahrain, Lapid also became the first Israeli minister to visit the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, two other Arab states that normalized their relations with Jerusalem in 2020. Earlier in September, Bahrain’s first-ever ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma, presented his credentials to the Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
The Israeli foreign minister praised the king for his courage to make peace with the Jewish state.
“The leadership and inspiration of the king has led to real cooperation, and this meeting sets the course for the future of our relations,” Lapid said.
During his ground-breaking visit to Manama, Lapid also met with Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani. The Israeli foreign minister thanked Al Khalifa "for the privilege of being here today and taking another step together toward building our relations, in a model of partnership and coexistence between cultures and religions."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that Lapid and Bahraini Foreign Minister Al Zayani discussed "cooperation between the countries and ways to make the official peace between the countries into an active friendship.”
Lapid is expected to sign bilateral agreements on water, environment and sports during his visit to the Gulf state. Consisting mainly of desert and importing most of its drinking water, Bahrain has expressed strong interest in Israeli cutting-edge water technologies.
Security is another important issue that will be discussed during Lapid’s visit. Just like Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain views Iran as a regional threat – and is considered more vulnerable as the tiny island country is located at Iran’s doorstep.
In addition, the Iranian regime has tried to foment political unrest among Bahrain’s Shiite majority. Israel is widely considered the only regional player with the military power and political willingness to confront the growing Iranian threat. As the U.S. increasingly appears to be withdrawing from the Middle East, moderate Gulf States like Bahrain and the UAE are interested in military cooperation with Israel.
The growing diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel are complemented with burgeoning commercial ties. Bahrain’s national air carrier Gulf Air announced the launch of two weekly direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manama.
The flight route is over Saudi Arabia and takes slightly less than three hours. The first direct flight from Bahrain landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll held an official ceremony at Ben-Gurion to celebrate the first direct flight between two countries.
“We will continue to make history. I turn wholeheartedly and eagerly to all the states of the region – join us in the peace accords for a better future for our nations and so that there will be a better world for our children and grandchildren,” Roll said.
Roll added, “creating a direct air path between Israel and Bahrain is not only an important symbolic step, but it will increase trade, tourism and understanding between nations.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.