Lapid set to inaugurate Israeli Embassy in Bahrain on Thursday

Trip marks first visit to Gulf country by minister since diplomatic relations established; direct flights between Manama and Tel Aviv slated to launch

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaking at the annual Herzliya Conference, September 12, 2021. (Ronen Toppleberg)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaking at the annual Herzliya Conference, September 12, 2021. (Ronen Toppleberg)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will travel to Bahrain on Thursday to inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Manama, the Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday.

Lapid’s trip, which has been in the works for months, will mark the first official Israeli ministerial visit to Bahrain since the countries established diplomatic ties last year.

Lapid is scheduled to depart Israel on Thursday and head to Manama — about a 2.5-hour flight away — where he will meet with his Bahraini counterpart, Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani. The pair are slated to jointly inaugurate the embassy in the Bahraini capital as well as sign a series of bilateral agreements.

The foreign minister will be accompanied on his trip by Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz and Deputy Director General for Middle Eastern Affairs Oded Yossef.

Direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manama — operated by Gulf Air and running twice a week — are slated to officially launch on Thursday with a flight from Bahrain to Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met on Sunday in New York with both Zayani and UAE Foreign Minister Khalifa al-Marar, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Bennett told Zayani that he was looking forward to meeting with Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at some point in the future.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) meets with UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalifa al-Marar, (R) and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani (L) at his hotel in New York on Sunday evening. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Earlier this month, longtime diplomat Eitan Na’eh was tapped to serve as Israel’s ambassador to Manama. The nomination of Na’eh — who is still serving as an envoy to the United Arab Emirates pending his confirmation — came on the same day that Bahraini Ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousef al-Jalahmah met Lapid in the Knesset and presented the foreign minister with his credentials.

Two weeks later, Jalahma officially presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog, a day before the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Jalahma said it was “a great honor” to be Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, adding that he was “confident that this historic step will lay a solid foundation for relations between our two countries, based on the values of tolerance and coexistence between peoples, beliefs, and religions.”

Bahrain’s first-ever envoy to Israel Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma (R) presents his letter of credence to President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, September 14, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Since becoming foreign minister in June, Lapid has also visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, two countries that Israel has normalized relations with over the past year.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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