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In first, Gantz speaks to Bahraini counterpart, invites him to Israel

Defense ministers discuss plans to work closely together; Gantz invites Abdullah bin Hassan al-Nuaimi for official visit

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Composite image shows, at left, Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, August 18, 2020, and at right, Bahraini Minister of Defense Affairs, Abdullah bin Hassan al-Nuaimi, in an undated photograph. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry, Bahrain News Agency)
Composite image shows, at left, Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, August 18, 2020, and at right, Bahraini Minister of Defense Affairs, Abdullah bin Hassan al-Nuaimi, in an undated photograph. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry, Bahrain News Agency)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullah bin Hassan al-Nuaimi, over the phone on Monday, a day before the planned signing of a normalization agreement between the two countries, according to Israeli and Bahraini officials.

“The two discussed the importance of the Abraham Accords and of the growing normalization with Israel to regional stability in the Middle East, and talked about their mutual expectation that a close partnership would be established between the two defense ministries, which will contribute to both countries’ capabilities, and to maintaining regional security,” Gantz’s office said.

In an interview with the Kan television station on Monday night, Gantz praised the normalization agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which will be signed on Tuesday in Washington, DC. Though a large number of representatives from Manama and Abu Dhabi will attend the event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the only Israeli minister in attendance.

“This is an event of great importance and I praise it. We all long for peace. It is perfectly fine that the prime minister went [alone], I don’t need to sit there as a statistic and clap my hands. I have a lot of work to do,” Gantz said.

His phone conversation with al-Nuaimi on Monday appeared to be the first publicly acknowledged call between the two defense ministers.

Gantz invited al-Nuaimi to come to Israel for an official visit. “The two agreed to continue their dialogue soon,” his office said.

Bahrain released a similar account of the call through its official state media outlet, the Bahrain News Agency.

The call came a day before a planned signing ceremony for a “declaration of peace” between the two countries, which was announced Friday.

Last month, Gantz held a similar call with the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Defense Affairs Mohammed Ahmad al-Bowardi shortly after it was announced that Israel and the UAE were normalizing ties.

“We share important security interests. Cooperation will strengthen the stability of the region,” Gantz told al-Bowardi, according to a statement from his office at the time.

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