Bahrain FM to Times of Israel: Ties with Israel will be normalized ‘eventually’
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Bahrain FM to Times of Israel: Ties with Israel will be normalized ‘eventually’

Khalid al-Khalifa’s remarks, on sidelines of US-led summit on Iran, come days after Israeli media reported Manama offered to establish diplomatic relations in 2017

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left, foreground) with other leaders at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left, foreground) with other leaders at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

WARSAW — Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on Thursday told The Times of Israel that his country would “eventually” establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Asked on the sidelines of a regional conference in Warsaw if he believed such a scenario would come about, Khalifa said: “Yes, eventually.”

The remark came days after an Israeli TV news station reported that the Bahraini government had expressed interest in normalizing ties with Israel two years ago. According to Channel 13, Khalifa asked former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to convey the message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a secret meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in 2017.

Both Khalifa and Netanyahu attended the US-led summit in the Polish capital this week, where the Israeli leader stood side-by-side with Arab leaders, hoping their common front against Iran could pave the way to greater normalization of relations.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, attends the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

At the opening dinner Wednesday night at Warsaw’s Royal Castle, Netanyahu expressed delight to be addressing top officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — none of which recognize the Jewish state.

“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu told reporters on Thursday.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, US Vice President Mike Pence, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pose for a family photo at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 13, 2019. (Janek SKARZYNSKI/AFP)

“I think this marks a change and important understanding of what threatens our future, what we need to do to secure it, and the possibility that cooperation will extend beyond security in every realm of life,” he said.

On Wednesday night, Netanyahu also held a rare one-on-one with Oman’s foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, after having paid a rare visit to the sultanate last year.

Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab countries, neighboring Egypt and Jordan. But Gulf Arab leaders — especially Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — have increasingly put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the back burner as they instead push to contain historic rival Iran.

Senior US officials, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt all hailed the interactions between Netanyahu and Arab leaders.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is taking part in the Warsaw conference where he will speak behind closed doors on the contours of a US proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that is set to be unveiled after Israeli elections in April.

The Palestinian Authority is not attending and has called the conference an “American conspiracy.” The Ramallah-based government is refusing US mediation in its conflict with Israel after Trump in 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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