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Report: Senior IDF official to be stationed in Bahrain, making history

Officer will serve as a liaison to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, in first-ever Israeli military posting to an Arab country; army denies report, but says its under discussion

Bahraini military officers present Defense Minister Benny Gantz with a ceremonial sword after the signing of a memorandum of understanding at the Bahraini defense headquarters, on February 3, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Bahraini military officers present Defense Minister Benny Gantz with a ceremonial sword after the signing of a memorandum of understanding at the Bahraini defense headquarters, on February 3, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel is reportedly set to dispatch a naval officer to an official posting in Bahrain, potentially marking the first time an Arab country will openly host a stationed Israeli military dignitary.

The officer, who has not been named, will travel to the Gulf kingdom in the next few weeks, where he will serve as a liaison for the United States 5th Fleet, which is garrisoned there, Channel 13 reported.

According to the report, the move was agreed upon during Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s visit to the Gulf last week and the officer’s deployment is seen as a first step to building further cooperation in the coming years

In a statement to the station, the IDF denied that there was any arrangement to send an officer, but indicated that the matter was under discussion.

The army said it “is constantly examining opportunities to deepen military cooperation with the countries of the region. At the moment, it has not been agreed to place an IDF officer in another country.”

During his trip to Bahrain, Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Bahraini counterpart at the Bahraini Defense Ministry headquarters in Manama, formalizing the security relationship between the two countries.

A US Navy Martin UAV drone flies over the Gulf waters as the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) Abdulrahman Al Fadhel takes part in a joint naval exercise between the US 5th Fleet Command and Bahraini forces, on October 26, 2021. (Mazen Mahdi/AFP)

According to Gantz’s office, the memorandum of understanding “will help advance intelligence cooperation, a framework for exercises, and cooperation between the countries’ defense industries.”

It is only Israel’s second memorandum of understanding with an Arab nation, the first being with Morocco, which Gantz signed late last year.

Somewhat less influential than the other countries in the Persian Gulf, the petroleum-rich Bahrain is still considered a significant player in the region. It maintains a deep relationship with the US military.

Both Israel and Bahrain consider Iran an enemy. For the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Islamic Republic represents a constant threat to stability, as Iran has regularly backed revolutionary groups within the country over the years.

Israel and Bahrain normalized ties a year and a half ago by signing the Abraham Accords at the White House during the Trump administration, a pact that also opened diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Also last week, the Israeli Navy began taking part in a massive international exercise led by the 5th Fleet, the International Maritime Exercise, known by its abbreviation IMX, which is focusing on unmanned naval systems and the use of artificial intelligence.

It is Israel’s first time participating in the naval drill, which is also being attended by countries with which Israel does not have formal ties, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.

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