Photo shows Kushner giving Bahrain king a Torah for local synagogue
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Photo shows Kushner giving Bahrain king a Torah for local synagogue

White House senior adviser presented scroll to Gulf monarch during a visit earlier this month; reportedly paid for it out of his own pocket

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (left) presents a Torah scroll to Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, while visiting the Gulf state in early September, 2020. (Twitter/Avi Berkowitz)
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (left) presents a Torah scroll to Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, while visiting the Gulf state in early September, 2020. (Twitter/Avi Berkowitz)

White House special representative Avi Berkowitz released a photo on Monday showing Jared Kushner presenting Bahrain’s king with a Torah scroll.

Kushner, a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, gave King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa the scroll on a visit to Bahrain earlier this month. During the visit, Kushner pushed the Gulf state to normalize ties with Israel, weeks after the neighboring United Arab Emirates said it would do so.

Trump announced on Friday that Bahrain will follow the UAE’s lead and establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Berkowitz posted the photo on Twitter as representatives from Israel, the UAE and Bahrain prepared for a Tuesday signing ceremony at the White House.

The Torah scroll presented to the king was “written in his honor,” Kushner said, and will be used in a synagogue in Bahrain, according to Berkowitz.

The Axios news site reported that Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, paid for the Torah out of his own pocket.

The Trump administration, led by Kushner and Berkowitz, brokered the diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Berkowitz serves as a White House special representative for international negotiations.

US President Donald Trump listens as Jared Kushner speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on September 11, 2020, in Washington, after Trump announced the US had brokered a peace deal between Israel and Bahrain. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

The official signing ceremony will be held at 12 p.m. (7 p.m. in Israel) on Tuesday on the White House South Lawn. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will represent Israel at the event, while the UAE and Bahrain will be represented by their foreign ministers.

While the texts of the agreements have not yet been released, an Israeli official said that Netanyahu will be signing a “peace treaty” with the UAE and a separate “declaration of peace” with Bahrain.

The former is a treaty with international legal standing, which must be approved by the Knesset, while the latter is merely a joint statement espousing a commitment to peace.

The official declined to say whether the agreement would include Israeli commitments regarding the Palestinians.

The first normalization agreement, between Israel and the UAE, was announced on August 13 by Trump. According to all three governments in a joint statement, the agreement will see the UAE establishing full ties with Israel, thus bringing a longstanding, but mostly covert, relationship into the open.

Combination image shows (L) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairing the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020, and (R) King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, speaking with another delegate during the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council summit held at the Saudi capital Riyadh on December 10, 2019. (Ronen Zvulun and Fayez Nureldine/Various Sources/AFP)

The Israel-Bahrain deal was announced on Friday, when a joint statement released by Trump said Bahrain and Israel would join Tuesday’s ceremony. Bahrain had been seen moving closer to Israel in recent years, and last year hosted the rollout of the economic element of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The signing ceremony, however, is still one step short of official ratification under Israeli law, which legal experts said requires the imprimatur of the cabinet and Knesset for official peace treaties.

Bahrain is home to a tiny Jewish community, and has long been tolerant of all religions, but until recently, there was no public Jewish life in the kingdom.

Jews, mostly of Iraqi origin, have been living in the kingdom since the 1880s.

In its heyday, the community numbered some 1,500 members. But in 1947, in the wake of the United Nations resolution proposing the creation of a Jewish state in Mandate Palestine, its synagogue was ransacked — though nobody was killed — and the community started to dwindle.

The synagogue was renovated in the late 1990s, but today there are only some 34 Jews left in Bahrain.

The community welcomed Bahrain’s normalization with Israel, calling it “a historic moment that we have never expected to see in our lifetime.”

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