Bahraini foreign minister planning visit, Israel announces

Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani to become tiny Gulf kingdom’s first minister to make a public trip to the Jewish state; no confirmation from Manama

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani delivers a statement upon the arrival of a US-Israeli delegation in the Bahrain International Airport on October 18, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani delivers a statement upon the arrival of a US-Israeli delegation in the Bahrain International Airport on October 18, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

Bahrain’s top diplomat, Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, is planning to visit Israel in the near future, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced Tuesday in the Knesset plenary.

Al-Zayani would be the tiny Gulf kingdom’s first minister to publicly visit the Jewish state.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat confirmed that the Bahraini diplomat is planning a visit, but did not provide more details

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry in Bahrain did not confirm that al-Zayani was headed to the Jewish state.

Ashkenazi spontaneously announced al-Zayani’s travel plans during a speech preceding a vote to approve Jerusalem’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Manama, diverting from his prepared remarks.

He thanked the administration of US President Donald Trump for brokering the Israel-Bahrain agreement, adding that we “must also thank the king of Bahrain, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and my counterpart Foreign Minister Al-Zayani), who will soon visit Israel.

“There is potential here to change our future beyond recognition. A new age is before us. An age of a different discourse, of peace and cooperation; of a new path in which there is a connecting line between the countries of the Middle East; a line of trade, tourism, transportation; of partnership and relations between human-being and human-being; between society and society, between business and business; not only between governments,” he said.

“This peace has great potential to be a warm peace. It is an opportunity to call on the Palestinians to join this dialogue and the path that we are beginning to chart. This is the time for a dialogue of unity and creating true peace. And yes, without preconditions,” Ashkenazi told the plenum.

To some extent, al-Zayani has been the public face of Bahrain’s normalization process with Israel. He signed the so-called Abraham Accords and a “Declaration of Peace” with Israel at the September 15 signing ceremony at the White House.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan wave from the Truman Balcony at the White House after they participated in the signing of the Abraham Accords, where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

On October 25, he signed eight bilateral agreements, including a “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations” with Israel during a ceremony in Manama.

“We salute the Israeli government for its responsiveness in realizing this historic step,” he said at the time.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani amd Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat, at the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between Israel and Bahrain, in Manama, October 18, 2020. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa “believes in the importance of strengthening the values of tolerance and coexistence and mutual understanding between different cultures and religions,” the top diplomat said, especially in a region “whose peoples have suffered from many conflicts and struggles.”

“The Palestinian question must be solved through direct negotiations between the two sides to reach a solution which satisfies both parties and brings about a two-state solution, according to the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant international law,” al-Zayani said.

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