Arab Muslim Gulf states must be so panicked over the Iranian nuclear threat, that they have started making overtures of diplomacy to the Jewish State. Members of the ‘This is Bahrain’ group say they were sent to Israel by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (below) ‘with a message of peace.’
Times of Israel (h/t Maurice) A delegation of religious figures from the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain arrived in Israel this week “in order to send a message of peace,” in an extremely rare instance of representatives from an Arab country without diplomatic relations visiting the Jewish state.
The trip seemed to signal a further warming of ties between Israel and Bahrain, which a report earlier this year said are on a path to normalizing diplomatic relations. An unnamed Bahraini official was quoted as saying the establishment of ties between Jerusalem and Manama could help counter Iran.
While there have been a number of recent signs that Bahrain is dropping its traditional hostility to the Jewish state, such as the visit in May of officials from the Israeli Football Association to a FIFA congress there, the officials told the Middle East Eye that an official announcement of the establishment of relations could happen as soon as next year.
The king made a clear statement: ‘It’s illogical for the Arab world to boycott Israel. We must find a better way.’ As part of Bahrain’s more conciliatory stance towards Israel, an imam from the country’s second city of Riffa told the news site that the government had ordered mosques to stop giving sermons critical of Israel.
The Bahraini delegation, which is made up of 24 members of the “This is Bahrain” group — which on its website heralds a commitment to a vision of “religious freedom and peaceful co-existence where we all live together in harmony in the spirit of mutual respect and love” — is in Israel for a four-day visit meant to send a message of religious tolerance and coexistence.
“The king sent us with a message of peace to the whole world,” a Shiite cleric on the trip told Hadashot TV news, which aired a report on Saturday about the group.
A prominent rabbi who met with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa told The Times of Israel that the king said he opposes the Arab states’ boycott of Israel and intends to allow citizens from his kingdom to visit the Jewish state freely.
While Jerusalem and Manama have never maintained diplomatic relations, in 2005, the king boasted to an American official that his state has contacts with Israel “at the intelligence/security level (i.e., with Mossad),” according to a secret US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The king also indicated willingness “to move forward in other areas.
In 2009, Bahrain’s crown prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he urged Arab countries to communicate more with Israel for the sake of the peace process.
In 2016, when former president Shimon Peres died, Bahrain was the only Gulf country to publicly mourn his passing.