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Israel reportedly operated secret diplomatic mission in Bahrain for past decade

Consulting firm used as front for covert mission, with dual-citizen diplomats serving as shareholders who promoted business deals and served as channel between governments

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)
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)

Israel has operated a covert diplomatic mission in Bahrain disguised as a commercial consulting firm for over a decade, according to a Wednesday report.

The secret mission, revealed by the Walla news site, has operated since 2009 and helped lay the groundwork for the formal peace agreement signed by Israel and Bahrain last month at the White House. The report was also published in English on the Axios website.

Its employees, all Israeli diplomats who hold dual nationalities and entered Bahrain on their foreign passports, helped promote hundreds of business deals between Israeli and Bahraini firms while also serving as a communication channel between the two governments, the report said.

The idea for the covert mission grew from negotiations between then foreign ministers Tzipi Livni and Khaled Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, according to the report, which cited Israeli and Bahraini sources, as well as documents from the Bahraini Commerce Ministry.

The report said that until recently attempts to publish details on the mission had been blocked, by Israel’s military censor. Some details, including names of the current diplomats serving there, were still barred from publication.

The decision to open the office, named the “Center for International Development” came in 2009, shortly after Qatar ordered the shuttering of an Israeli trade office in Doha against the backdrop of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The move stripped Jerusalem of a foothold in the Gulf, ostensibly increasing Israeli interested in opening something comparable elsewhere in the region.

During an April 2008 visit to Qatar, then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni meets with her Omani counterpart Yousef bin Abdulla (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)

The Center for International Development offered services in marketing, PR and investment, according to local documents. The firm changed its name in 2013, but Walla said the military censor has barred it from revealing the current title.

The website claimed the company’s “strong network of contacts in Bahrain and around the region helps it close deals,” Axios said.

The report named Israeli diplomats who served there in the past as Brett Jonathan Miller, a South African national who went on to be appointed Israel’s consul general in Mumbai in 2013; Ido Moed, a Belgian national who now serves as cyber coordinator in the Foreign Ministry; and Idan Fluss, a British national who now serves as the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for the economy.

“The Israeli diplomats all had cover stories, backed up by unconvincing LinkedIn profiles,” Axios reported.

According to the reports, the firm’s cover was nearly blown on several occasions, requiring “urgent damage control” to keep the company’s true function a secret.

The Bahraini, Israeli and US flags are pictured in front of an El Al plane ahead of a flight to Bahrain’s capital Manama from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on October 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Israel and Bahrain on Sunday formally declared that they have made peace and established formal diplomatic relations, only the fourth such agreement between the Jewish state and an Arab country, and the second in weeks.

At a ceremony in Manama, officials from both nations signed eight bilateral agreements, including a “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations.”

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and other Bahraini and Israeli officials participate in the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between Israel and Bahrain, in Manama on October 18, 2020. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

The Joint Communiqué — the centerpiece of the budding Israeli-Bahraini friendship — is not legally a treaty, but rather a “framework agreement,” Israeli officials said, stressing, however, that with the signing Israel and Bahrain have formally established diplomatic relations.

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