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Israeli-US delegation to visit Bahrain on second ‘historic’ flight to ready pact

Group will also fly to UAE after talks in Manama, after which Emirati delegation is expected to visit Israel for first time, according to reports

US President Donald Trump, center, with from left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, September 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US President Donald Trump, center, with from left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, September 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A joint US-Israel delegation is planning a trip to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates early next week to continue working on implementing normalization agreements with Israel signed in Washington last month.

The delegation is expected to fly from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to Manama on Sunday in what would be the first-ever commercial nonstop flight from Israel to the Gulf kingdom.

According to several officials involved in the preparations for the trip, the US delegation will be headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and include the White House’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Avi Berkowitz.

The Israeli delegation will reportedly be headed by Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz.

After a day of meetings to prepare for the formal signing of the peace treaty with Bahrain, the delegation will hop to nearby Abu Dhabi for another round of talks between Israeli and Emirati officials about bilateral agreements in a wide range of areas, including trade, health and the reciprocal opening of embassies.

Shortly after the Israeli delegation returns to Tel Aviv, a senior delegation from the UAE will arrive in the city as well for additional talks.

This delegation will reportedly be headed by two senior members of the Emirati cabinet and would mark the first time UAE ministers visit the Jewish state publicly since the two countries announced the normalization of ties on August 13.

The joint US-Israeli delegation to Manama and Abu Dhabi was first reported by Axios. According to the website, the trip is modeled on the historic August 31 trip to the UAE headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner.

The site quoted Israeli officials as saying that the Bahraini government “asked to receive the same delegation as the UAE.”

Ushpiz and Berkowitz were both on the mostly symbolic flight from Israel to the UAE to celebrate the deal and kick off talks publicly.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official ahead of boarding the plane before leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 1, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool/AFP)

According to Axios, the Israeli delegation will include senior officials from various ministries who will launch negotiations with their Bahraini counterparts on bilateral agreements. The delegation’s ultimate goal is to prepare the draft for an Israeli-Bahrain peace treaty similar to the one signed with the UAE on September 15 at the White House.

At the September 15 White House ceremony, Israel and Bahrain signed a “Declaration of Peace” in which both countries “agreed to establish full diplomatic relations,” but a formal treaty is still being worked out.

Jerusalem and Manama have approved a “series of steps initiating this new chapter in their relations,” including the desire to reach bilateral agreements in various fields and the reciprocal opening of embassies.

On Monday, Israel’s cabinet gave the go-ahead for the signing of a formal treaty with the UAE, sending it to the Knesset for a full vote on Thursday.

Ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that the premier and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan spoke over the weekend and agreed to meet “soon,” according to a readout of their conversation.

(L-R) UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and US President Donald Trump, wave on the South Lawn of 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)

The conversation was the first between the two since the agreement to normalize ties between the states was announced on August 13.

Bahrain announced that it would form ties with Israel in September, in a move seen as largely directed by Saudi Arabia as a tacit sign of approval for normalization with Israel.

US and Israeli officials say other Arab states are also expected to announce plans to normalize ties.

Emirati officials have started the process of approving and ratifying the agreement with Israel, but it is unclear when it will conclude.

Once the Knesset approves the treaty and Abu Dhabi sends a diplomatic note to Jerusalem saying that the process of ratifying the agreement has been completed, the treaty will enter into force for both sides and formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE will have been established.

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