Upon landing in Bahrain as part of an Israeli-U.S. delegation, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat said that "Israel extends its hands for genuine peace with the Bahraini people."
He opened his speech in Arabic upon arriving at the airport in the Gulf state's capital, Manama.
"Together we will change the reality in the region for the benefit of our nations. God willing, we will host you in Israel soon,” Ben Shabbat was quoted by the Times of Israel as saying.
Switching to Hebrew, Ben-Shabbat said that the delegation flew on a direct route from Israel to Mamana and expressed hope it will become a regular route in the future. He then went on to thank Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for his part in the peace process.
The delegation was welcomed by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and called for "genuine and lasting peace, one which safeguards the rights of the Middle East’s peoples."
Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in agreeing last month to normalize ties with Israel, stunning Palestinians who had demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.
The breakthrough, overseen by U.S. President Donald Trump, is a foreign policy flourish ahead of his reelection bid next month. For the U.S. allies, it is a chance to close ranks on Iran more overtly.
The Israeli delegation, which boarded an El Al Israel Airlines charter flight to Manama, was accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. His office said the mission seeks "expanded economic cooperation" among Israel, Bahrain and the UAE.
At a ceremony with Mnuchin at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, U.S. Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz said that Israel and Bahrain would sign a joint communique "bringing forward tourism and banking and diplomatic relations".
Also speaking at the airport ceremony, the head of the Israeli delegation, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, said talks would also focus on sectors such as finance and aviation.
Israel and Bahrain signed a "Declaration of Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations" at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15, a document that fell short of a formal treaty.
An official involved in the visit said the communique would upgrade the relationship between the two countries.
The signing of the declaration with Israel last month drew anger among Bahrainis at home and abroad. Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim minority rules a Shi'ite majority population, has said the deal protects its interests from Iran.
The route of El Al Flight 973, a nod to Bahrain's telephone code, was to take it over Saudi Arabia, accommodation by the Gulf powerhouse that has so far resisted U.S. appeals to normalize ties with Israel.
Mnuchin and the other U.S. officials travel on Monday to the UAE, where accord with Israel has uncorked bilateral commerce. On Tuesday the U.S. dignitaries will join the UAE's first delegation to Israel.
Though less oil-rich than the UAE, Bahrain - host to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet - has geostrategic significance.
A Sept. 13 report by Israel's Intelligence Ministry saw potential for defense cooperation with Bahrain, describing it as threatened by "Shiite political sedition, directed by Iran and its proxies".
Israel could also help Bahrain with renewable energy, food security and banking and finance technologies, it said.
First published: 13:23 , 10.18.20