The head of the Israeli delegation, National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat (L), and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, sign the Israel-Bahrain accord formalizing diplomatic relations, in the Bahraini capital Manama, on October 18, 2020. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (C) looks on
National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat (L), and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, sign the Israel-Bahrain accord formalizing diplomatic relations, in the Bahraini capital Manama
Photo: AFP
National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat (L), and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, sign the Israel-Bahrain accord formalizing diplomatic relations, in the Bahraini capital Manama

Israel, Bahrain sign deal establishing formal ties

Manama ceremony also saw the signing of several memoranda of understanding including trade, air services, finance, banking and agriculture; 'It was indeed a historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries,' says Bahraini FM

Reuters |
Published: 10.18.20 , 23:06
Bahrain and Israel signed a joint communique to formalize nascent ties during a visit by an Israeli and U.S. delegation to Manama on Sunday to broaden cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran bulwark and potential economic bonanza.
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  • 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 head of the Israeli delegation, National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat (L), and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, sign the Israel-Bahrain accord formalizing diplomatic relations, in the Bahraini capital Manama, on October 18, 2020. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (C) looks on The head of the Israeli delegation, National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat (L), and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, sign the Israel-Bahrain accord formalizing diplomatic relations, in the Bahraini capital Manama, on October 18, 2020. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (C) looks on
    National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat (L), and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, sign the Israel-Bahrain accord formalizing diplomatic relations, in the Bahraini capital Manama
    (Photo: AFP)
    The breakthrough, overseen by U.S. President Donald Trump, is a foreign policy flourish ahead of his bid for re-election next month. For the U.S. allies, it is a chance to close ranks on Iran more overtly.
    The Israeli delegation, which flew on an El Al Israel Airlines charter flight from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, was accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
    "It was indeed a historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries," Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani said after the signing ceremony with Israel's Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
    Al-Zayani touched elbows with Ben-Shabbat, who described the step as a "promising beginning" and said the Israeli delegation was accepted "with open arms, with warmth and cordiality."
    מאיר בן שבת סטיב מנוצ'ין והמשלחת לבחריין לפני העלייה למטוס בנתב"גמאיר בן שבת סטיב מנוצ'ין והמשלחת לבחריין לפני העלייה למטוס בנתב"ג
    National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat speaking at Manama Airport upon his arrival at Bahrain
    (Photo: GPO)
    Israel and Bahrain, host to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, 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.
    The accord has drawn anger among Bahrainis at home and abroad. The government of Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim minority rules a Shi'ite majority population, has said the deal protects its interests from Iran.
    Al-Zayani said engagement and cooperation were the most effective and sustainable way of bringing about genuine and lasting peace in the region, and said his country supported resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through dialogue.

    Just the beginning

    Mnuchin described the accord as an important step in regional stability and "just the beginning of the work that is going forward".
    "I think the opportunity is way beyond just investments," Mnuchin earlier told reporters on the El Al flight. "It's in technology, building various different businesses - and in the case of Bahrain as well, really expanding the opportunities for them quite, quite, quite dramatically."
    סטיב מנוצ'ין מאיר בן שבת  דייוויד פרידמןסטיב מנוצ'ין מאיר בן שבת  דייוויד פרידמן
    National Security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin
    (Photo: GPO)
    The ceremony also saw the signing of several memoranda of understanding. They cover trade, air services, telecommunications, finance, banking and agriculture, according to a list provided by a Bahraini official.
    Houda Nounoo, a Bahraini diplomat, told reporters the Gulf state planned to formally reopen Manama's old synagogue, which has a Jewish community of 34 people, for the Purim festival on Feb. 25.
    Ben-Shabbat, speaking in Arabic at an arrival ceremony at Manama airport, said Israel looked forward to hosting a Bahraini delegation in Israel soon.
    The El Al flight flew over Saudi Arabia, an accommodation by the Gulf's powerhouse, which has so far resisted U.S. appeals to normalize ties with Israel.
    Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements while U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham AccordsBahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements while U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords
    Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements while U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Mnuchin and the other U.S. officials travel on Monday to the UAE, where the accord with Israel has uncorked bilateral commerce. On Tuesday the U.S. dignitaries will join the UAE's first delegation to Israel.
    Israel and the UAE will sign a deal on Tuesday to allow 28 weekly commercial flights between Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Israel's Transportation Ministry said on Sunday.
    Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi welcomed the accord, saying the agreement is "a foundation for true peace."
    "Peace which will show to the Israelis, Bahrainis and peoples of the region that the present, and also the future a realities of mutual discourse and doing, and of shared respect," he added.
    "This is a great moment for all of us and an exciting moment for me personally. I wish to thank my colleague the foreign minister of Bahrain and the U.S. government for their endless help with this great achievement."

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