Following the 2020 normalisation pact between Israel and Bahrain, Prime Minister of Israeli Naftali Bennett has become the first Israeli leader to make an official visit to the Gulf nation.
Bennett met Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the Prime Minister, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, during the trip.
Bahraini news agency BNA reported that King Hamad and Bennett held talks on Tuesday and discussed strengthening security and strategic relations to address regional challenges which include nuclear threats, terrorist activities in the region, religious extremism, social issues and poverty.
“The two sides also discussed at length ways to enhance civil, economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries to secure peace and achieve prosperity,” BNA said.
King Hamad Ibn Isa al-Khalifa said: “This is a historic day, to host the Prime Minister of Israel here in Bahrain. Because of his determination and leadership, this has been a fruitful and successful visit in the mutual efforts for the benefit of the two peoples. I thank you for coming here.”
Bennett responded: “I admire your courage and determination in building your country. We discussed the many ways to build new bridges and structures for a stronger, more stable region. I expect to continue the excellent relationship between us.”
The Israeli Prime Minister was welcomed into the palace of Crown Prince and Prime Minister by an honour guard where “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, was played by a military band.
The Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said: “All responsible nations must make an effort to achieve peace. We have never experienced war between us, but there have never been proper relations between our countries. We will now see the Middle East free of disputes, based on the principles of mutual respect, understanding and joint responsibility for security.”
Bennett sought an alliance and cooperation against Iran and its allies that Israel sees as the main destabiliser of the region.
In an interview with Bahrain’s Alayam Newspaper, Bennett said: “Iran supports terrorist organisations that operate in your region and our region in order to achieve one goal, which is to destroy moderate countries that care about the welfare of their people and install bloodthirsty terrorist organisations in their place. We will not allow that. We are fighting Iran and its henchmen in the region day and night and we will help our friends in promoting peace, security and stability, whenever we are asked…
“I see Israel and Bahrain as close partners in all areas. The cooperation between us is natural. I expect trade between us to increase significantly, as it has grown, for example, with the UAE. I expect the volume of tourism to increase, of course after the coronavirus passes, and most importantly, I aspire for the two peoples to get to know each other better, through delegation visits, joint cultural activities, etc. We want a very warm peace with Bahrain.”
Bennett told reporters: “We are trying to form a new regional architecture of moderate countries (to) provide stability, economic prosperity and to be able to stand strong against enemies who are fomenting chaos and terror.”
Both Israel and Bahrain agree to build a bilateral plan that was dubbed as “Warm Peace Strategy.” It is meant to prioritise cooperation in sectors like food security, water, sustainable energy, trade and investment.
Bennett extended his invitation to Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa to visit Israel. Al-Khalifa accepted the invitation and said that the trip should happen in “the near future.”
As part of the “Abraham Accords” brokered by Washington, Bahrain normalised ties with Israel in late 2020 and both countries exchanged ambassadors and have since then signed multiple trades and defence agreements.