President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday hosted a visiting delegation from Bahrain that was in Israel to promote coexistence, led by a member of the kingdom’s royal family, the president’s office said in a statement.
The visit by a group from the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence came in the wake of Israel and Bahrain establishing diplomatic ties in September.
They were led by Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, who in addition to being president of the center’s board of directors is also a member of the Bahraini royal family.
“Both Israel and Bahrain value freedom of religion and tolerance, and see the different communities that make up their societies as a source of strength,” Rivlin told the delegation at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.
“As His Majesty King Hamad said so beautifully in his declaration, religion must be a power for harmony and cooperation around the world,” Rivlin said. “We must not allow religion to be an excuse for violence.”
The president expressed thanks to Bahrain for the support it gives to the kingdom’s Jewish community and “its steadfast position against all forms of antisemitism,” the statement said.
Following their meeting, the visitors presented Rivlin with a Hebrew copy of a 2017 declaration by Bahrain’s king in support of interreligious tolerance and coexistence.
The delegation’s trip to Israel followed the first-ever visit by a Bahraini foreign minister to the Jewish state last week. Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani was in the country along with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, al-Zayani called for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Rivlin also hosted al-Zayani during his time in Israel.
Since establishing diplomatic ties, Israel and Bahrain have reached an agreement to open reciprocal embassies.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed the so-called Abraham Accords and a “Declaration of Peace” with Israel at a September 15 ceremony at the White House.
On October 25, al-Zayani signed eight bilateral agreements, including a “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations” with Israel during a ceremony in Manama.
Thursday saw the first commercial flight between Dubai and Tel Aviv.
Since the historic Abraham Accords agreement, Sudan has followed suit and agreed to forge ties with Israel.
The agreements shattered a longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalization with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.
Several Gulf Arab states have for years been quietly building relations with Israel on the basis of shared animosity toward Iran, with the US supporting the process.
Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia has so far refrained from formalizing ties with Israel, but has given the green light to overflights from the Jewish state, in an implicit sign of approval. On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a three-way meeting with the kingdom’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman and Pompeo, although no agreement on normalization was reached.
The secret visit was only revealed in the media after Netanyahu had already returned to Israel. The premier’s office hasn’t confirmed it.