Despite denials, official says Israeli delegation attended Bahrain conference
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Despite denials, official says Israeli delegation attended Bahrain conference

TV report says trip eventually went ahead; organizers and Economy Minister Eli Cohen had said it was called off due to security fears

A view of the Manama skyline, Bahrain. (CC-BY Jayson De Leon/Wikimedia Commons)
A view of the Manama skyline, Bahrain. (CC-BY Jayson De Leon/Wikimedia Commons)

An Israeli delegation attended a business conference in Bahrain this week, a senior official in Jerusalem told Israeli television on Wednesday, contradicting statements by organizers and the economy minister’s office that the visit had been scrapped amid security fears.

A 30-strong Israeli delegation, including Economy Minister Eli Cohen, was scheduled to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress that opened in Manama on Monday,

At least three Israelis, including the Israel Innovation Authority’s deputy chief, Anya Eldan, were scheduled to speak at the conference.

But organizers said the Israelis backed out “due to security concerns.”

Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen attends a Kulanu faction meeting in the Knesset on December 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“While we advised the Israeli delegation they would be welcome, they decided this morning not to come due to security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption for the other 180 nations participating,” the organization’s president, Jonathan Ortmans, told Reuters earlier this week.

A spokesperson for Cohen confirmed to Reuters that the trip was “delayed because of political issues,” and Channel 12 reported Monday that the publication of a threatening video by a Shia terror group prompted the delegation to cancel its participation.

However, an unnamed senior Israeli official told Channel 13 on Wednesday that an Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation arrived at the conference as planned and also held a series of meetings on its sidelines. Army Radio also reported that the Israeli delegation participated.

There was no confirmation of the report and it was not clear if Cohen or the other original delegation members attended.

Bahrain is among a growing number of Arab countries that allow Israelis on its soil. Earlier this year, a report revealed that more than two years ago, Bahrain officials said they were interested in normalizing relations.

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

The reports of the Israeli cancellation came after Bahrain’s parliament issued a condemnation of the visit and several demonstrators protested against the Israeli delegation in Manama.

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