Minister claims mystery ‘prince of Bahrain’ is visiting Israel

Ayoub Kara says he discussed ties with the tiny Gulf nation during meeting in Tel Aviv, but Foreign Ministry says it has no knowledge of the royal visit

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara speaks at a Likud party event in Lod on December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara speaks at a Likud party event in Lod on December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara claimed Sunday that he had met with a Bahraini prince visiting Israel, that the two had discussed regional developments, and that he planned to bring the royal to the Knesset.

“I met publicly for the first time in Tel Aviv with Mubarak Al Khalifa, the prince of Bahrain, in order to strengthen the relationship between our two countries,” Kara wrote in a tweet boasting of the meeting as a sign of growing relations between Israel and Bahrain.

“On Monday I will also have the honor of welcoming him to Israel’s Knesset,” he added, above a photo of the apparent royal guest grinning next to Kara.

An official visit to Israel by a member of the Bahraini royal family, and all the more so a visit to the Israeli parliament, would indeed signify a major step in the gently warming ties between Israel and Bahrain and perhaps even suggest a turning point in the Jewish state’s relations with the wider Arab world.

But in an apparent blunder, Kara seems to have hugely overstated the prominence of his guest and the visit’s diplomatic importance.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel it had no knowledge of any Bahraini visit to the country, nor could it confirm the royal status of Kara’s photogenic guest. Likewise, neither the Knesset spokesman or the office of Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein said they were aware of a visit to the parliament by a Bahraini official. Such visits usually involve extensive planning and coordination between Israeli officials and foreign delegations.

Usually keen to speak to the press, Kara declined numerous requests to comment on the visit or give any further details about his meeting.

While Kara claims to have met with “the prince of Bahrain,” the country’s crown prince — the eldest son of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa — is Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and bears no resemblance to the “Mubarak Al Khalifa” named in Kara’s tweet.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with US President Donald Trump, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In fact, Bahraini government and royal websites include no mention of any living member of the royal family who goes by the name Mubarak Al Khalifa.

While Mohammad bin Mubarak Al Khalifa is currently the country’s deputy prime minister, having served as Bahrain’s foreign minister from 1970 to 2005 and currently at 82 years of age, he too does not match the image of the man in Kara’s tweet.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the man in the tweet told the news station that he was a distant member of the Bahraini royal family currently living in London and was visiting Israel on a “private trip” to see friends. He said that Bahraini officials had attempted to prevent him from coming to the country and that he had received death threats over his travel plans, the report said.

It appears that the mysterious visitor may be the man known as Mubarak Hamad, a far-flung Bahraini royal who in 2012 was charged with being drunk and disorderly on an aircraft after he was removed from a British Airways flight from London to Bahrain before takeoff for shouting and complaining about poor service.

This is not the first time Kara has raised diplomatic eyebrows, particularly for failing to coordinate meetings with foreign officials with the Israeli authorities.

Two months ago it was reported that Kara had brought along a number of personal associates and real estate brokers on an official trip to Ethiopia in April without government authorization.

Likud Minister Ayoub Kara meets with prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar in Ecuador on May 24, 2017. (Courtesy)

And in June, Kara drew Morocco’s wrath after posting a photo of himself meeting Abdelkader Taleb Omar, the prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, at the swearing-in ceremony of Ecuador’s newly elected president. Morocco, sending a message via an Israeli embassy in Europe, protested the meeting between Kara and Taleb Omar, saying it could not tolerate such support of its neighbor-rival.

The communications minister has also landed himself in hot water for a number of controversial public statements.

In February 2017, Kara was ridiculed for saying that Israel would soon be able to deploy terminator robots — indestructible because they would be built of “special material” — that would be able to enter enemy territory and kill the leaders of terror groups without putting soldiers in harm’s way.

Just two months prior, he had posted to his Facebook page details of a security-related incident involving the Jewish state, all elements of which are still under a gag order. The post was quickly taken down, but not before journalists and others saw the information.

And a month before that, Kara drew condemnation from the Foreign Ministry when, during a visit to Italy, he suggested that powerful earthquakes in that country were divine retribution for anti-Israel actions in the United Nations.

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