Bahrain jumps on the bandwagon of normalization

In a conversation with the US and Israeli leaders, the king of Bahrain emphasized the need to reach a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option

State Department photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain

Bahrain's news agency BNA reported Saturday from the kingdom's capital Manama that "King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa received a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump with the participation of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."                                                                                                                

In the conversation, the king emphasized the need to reach a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option, in accordance with the principle of the two-state solution policy. The king praised the efforts of the American administration to promote peace, and President Trump invited Bahrain to participate in the ceremony for the signing of a peace agreement between the UAE and Israel at the White House on the 15th of this month. The king and Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed deep appreciation for the American president's efforts for peace. The news agency of Bahrain reported that Bahrain accepted the invitation "to join Israel and the United Arab Emirates at the historic signing ceremony."  

According to commentators of the New York Times, Bahrain would never announce the establishment of relations with Israel without the authorization of Saudi Arabia, and there are signs that the Saudis themselves are moving in the same direction, although at a slower pace. Bahrain will be the fourth Arab country to normalize its relations with Israel.   

Bernard Haykel, a Saudi Arabia expert at Princeton University, told the newspaper that Bahrain lost its autonomy about ten years ago when it turned to Saudi Arabia, its large neighbor, to rescue it from the threats of the Arab Spring uprising against the small kingdom. Saudi Arabia is currently the country with the greatest influence in the Arab world, and thus the warming of ties with Israel is seen as a heavy blow to the Palestinians. Sources in the American administration told the New York Times on Saturday that although   Washington is pushing the Saudis to officially recognize Israel, but the possibility "is remote at best" because of political differences of opinion between Washington and Riyadh on the topic.  

As for Bahrain, US officials said that the country hosts a large and important US naval base, and the rulers of the kingdom have been signaling for 25 years their willingness to improve ties with Israel. In 1994 a delegation from Israel visited Bahrain, and in 2017 a delegation from Bahrain visited Israel. The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, hinted at possibly recognizing Israel when he was interviewed two years ago by The Atlantic. He said "Israelis have a right to their own land."  

The New York Times added that messages by Saudi religious scholars calling for positive treatment of Jews and even the warming of ties with Israel have been seen recently on social networks in Saudi Arabia. It is hard to believe that these kinds of messages would be published on the Saudi networks without the consent of Crown Prince Bin Salman, who is today the de facto ruler of the kingdom.  

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