Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa has denied the existence of a plan for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the Gulf kingdom.
“There is no plan for a visit of Israel’s prime minister,” Khalid told the London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. “There are no communications regarding [a visit]. The reality is nothing has happened.”
The Bahraini official’s comment comes days after Hebrew-language news sites reported that Israel was working to normalize ties with Bahrain, citing an unnamed senior official. At least one site also recently reported that officials in Jerusalem assessed that Bahrain would be the next Arab country without formal diplomatic ties with Israel to host Netanyahu.
In October, the prime minister made a surprise visit to Oman and met Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Muscat.
At a press conference last week, Netanyahu said he would visit more Arab states soon, without naming which countries.
Despite his denial of an imminent plan, the top Bahraini diplomat, however, said if a visit for Netanyahu were planned, the Gulf country would “not hesitate to announce it.”
Bahrain and Israel both strongly oppose Iran and its military activities in Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
In May, the Bahraini foreign minister appeared to defend Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria.
“As long as Iran continues the current status quo of its forces and rockets operating in the region, any country — including Israel — has the right to defend itself by eliminating the source of danger,” Khalid posted on his Twitter account at the time, hours after Israel hit Iranian assets in Syria.
Arab officials rarely offer a public defense of Israel.
Last week, Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said he had received an invitation to attend a technology-related conference in Bahrain next year.
More than two decades ago, then-environmental protection minister Yossi Sarid visited Bahrain, where he met Bahraini foreign minister Mohammed bin Mubarak al-Khalifa and participated in regional talks on environmental issues.