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Bahrain will treat settlement goods as made in Israel, visiting minister says

Aligning with US and contradicting EU policies, Zayed Alzayani says his country won’t make a distinction based on ‘which city or which region’ Israeli goods were produced in

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

Bahrain's Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed R. Alzayani speaks to Israeli reporters in Jerusalem on December 3, 2020 (Courtesy Bahrain Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism)
Bahrain's Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed R. Alzayani speaks to Israeli reporters in Jerusalem on December 3, 2020 (Courtesy Bahrain Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism)

Bahrain will not distinguish between Israeli goods made in Israel proper and those from disputed territories, the country’s minister in charge of trade said Thursday during a visit to Jerusalem.

Speaking to Israeli reporters, Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed R. Alzayani said that all goods and services offered by Israelis will be treated as products of Israel, indicating that even goods from the West Bank and the Golan will not require special labels.

“We deal with Israel and Israeli companies like we would deal with an Italian, or an Indian, or a Chinese or a German company, or a Saudi company for that matter. There are no restrictions or special treatment or special rules. We have started a new chapter with Israel,” he said.

Asked by The Times of Israel if goods from settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights were welcome in Bahrain and can be marketed as “Products of Israel,” Alzayani responded in the affirmative.

Bahrain’s Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed R. Alzayani speaks to Israeli reporters in Jerusalem on December 3, 2020 (Courtesy Bahrain NCC)

“Without going really into details and borderlines, we would look at Israeli products — or services, because Israel has a thriving IT and innovation sector and they may not necessarily give you a physical product but IT solutions or consultancy — will be treated like Israeli,” he said.

“So we will not go into the details [but] we will recognize them as Israeli products. And all Bahraini products, hopefully, will be recognized in Israel as Bahraini products. I don’t see, frankly, a distinction on which part or which city or which region it was manufactured or sourced from.”

A senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization on Thursday denounced his position, saying it ran contrary to international consensus. Wasel Abu Youssef also called for Arab states not to import goods from Israel to thwart it from “stretching into Arab markets to strengthen its economy,” according to Reuters.

The Bahraini minister’s position appears to align with new US guidelines which requires that all goods produced in areas where Israel exercises civilian control, including West Bank settlements, be marked  “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel.”

The policy was announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited thee Golan Heights and a West Bank settlement last month.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (off camera) speaks after a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Golan Heights, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

But Alzayani’s statement appears to starkly contrast with European Union policy, which since 2015 requires products made by Israelis in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan to be labeled as such, and does not allow them to be marketed as products of Israel. Other countries, such as South Africa, have implemented similar labeling requirements.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which was passed in 2016, calls on all countries to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

The Gush Etzion winery in the West Bank, July 18, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Alzayani came to Israel Tuesday as the head of a delegation that included some 40 businesspeople and officials. It was the second ministerial visit from Bahrain to Israel in as many weeks. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several cabinet ministers, discussing ways to expand bilateral trade.

Speaking to Israeli reporters in a conference room in Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, the minister said that Gulf Air, Bahrain’s national airline, is planning to start nonstop flights to Tel Aviv by January 7.

“We are fully committed. The pace we’re moving with is quite the fast pace because we want to catch up on lost time. We believe there is huge, immense potential,” he said Wednesday at a meeting with Netanyahu.

Later on Thursday, the Bahraini minister is planning to tour the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan and participate in a gathering of Israeli and Bahraini businesspeople before heading back to Manama.

Alzayani’s visit comes just two weeks after Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, became the first minister from the tiny Gulf kingdom to visit the Jewish state.

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