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Senior Bahraini official openly meets IDF commander who handles Iran

Army publishes photo of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmad al Khalifa shaking hands with Tal Kelman, in further sign of strengthening alliance between countries

Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Relations Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmad al Khalifa, right, meets with Tal Kelman, head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate, August 10, 2021. (IDF spokesperson/Twitter)
Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Relations Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmad al Khalifa, right, meets with Tal Kelman, head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate, August 10, 2021. (IDF spokesperson/Twitter)

A visiting senior Bahraini official has openly met an Israeli military commander in charge of Iran matters, in a further indication of the warming of ties between the countries following last year’s normalization deal and their alignment against Tehran.

Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Relations Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmad al Khalifa met with Tal Kelman, head of the Strategic Division of the Israel Defense Forces’ Planning Directorate, and the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichai Adraee on Tuesday tweeted a photograph of them shaking hands.

In the past, such meetings between senior Israeli and Arab officials had been largely kept away from public eyes.

The talks focused on building security ties between the countries, the IDF said in a statement.

Kalifa’s four-day visit to Israel, his second to the Jewish state, will end on Thursday. He is responsible for ties with Israel, and during his time in the country he met with President Isaac Herzog and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. He was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Earlier this week, Khalifa slammed the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, saying that it had fueled violence and unrest across the region and caused the death of innocents.

Bahrain and Israel officially established diplomatic ties with the Abraham Accords agreement at the White House in September 2020. The United Arab Emirates was also part of the agreement. The nations’ mutual enmity with Iran was seen as a driving factor for the deal.

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs President Dore Gold (L) signs a memorandum of understanding with Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Relations, Dr. Abdullah bin Ahmad al Khalifa (R) at King David Hotel in Jerusalem, August 8, 2021. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

In a Jerusalem briefing Sunday, Khalifa addressed the upcoming anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, and hinted that Israel would be pleasantly surprised on that date.

“Hopefully on the 15th of September, there will be some sort of demonstration that there is commitment” by the Biden administration to the accords, he said with a smile.

Bilateral ties between Israel and Bahrain will continue to grow, Khalifa pledged.

“This year there will be a direct line by our national carrier Gulf Air to Tel Aviv,” he said, noting that the first flight had been slated to take place this past January but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are determined, we are committed,” he declared. “Hopefully soon we will have Bahrain’s ambassador assuming his post in Israel.”

Khaled Yousef al-Jalahmah was officially appointed Bahrain’s envoy to Israel in June.

“The entire globe today is looking at this relationship and what it bears for the countries and for the people of those countries,” Khalifa said.

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