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US source said to tell Palestinians Oman will also normalize

Israeli officials say Bahrain in advanced contacts to be next in line for ties

Hours after UAE and Israel establish relations in deal announced by Trump, Hebrew media reports indicate Bahrain may follow soon

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)
Then foreign minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)

Senior Israeli officials reportedly said Thursday that they are in advanced talks with Bahrain about normalizing ties with the Gulf state, hours after the historic announcement on Israel’s establishment of ties with the United Arab Emirates.

Bahrain is expected to be the next country to establish official ties with Israel, a senior official told the Kan public broadcaster.

A senior American official told Palestinian media that Bahrain and Oman are expected to normalize ties with Israel in the near future, the report also said.

The contacts with Bahrain were also reported by Army Radio, which said that multiple Israeli officials said they were in “advanced contacts” with Bahrain about the potential move.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced their agreement Thursday afternoon. They “agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE,” they said in a joint statement with the US that was released by President Donald Trump.

Said Trump: “This is a monumental step to forging ties of cooperation in the Middle East and I think you’re going to have other countries come forward. I can tell you we already do and they want to make a deal. They’re going to have peace in the Middle East.”

Bahrain was among those welcoming the deal: “This historic step will contribute to strengthening stability and peace in the region,” the government in Manama said in a statement on the national news agency.

Bahrain also said the accord stopped “the annexation of Palestinian lands and [was] advancing the region towards peace.”

The UAE-Israel deal marks the third such agreement the Jewish state has struck with an Arab country after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).

Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security and the establishment of reciprocal embassies, their statement said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night that Israel had entered “new era of Israeli relations with the Arab world,” and that other deals with Arab countries would follow.

He said the agreement reflected the “dramatic change” in the way Israel was perceived in the region. In the past, it was regarded “as an enemy and source of instability” but today “many, many states see Israel as a strategic ally for stability, for security, for advancement and also for peace.

“There will be other Arab and Muslim states that will join the circle of peace with us,” he predicted. Israel and moderate states in the region “stand aligned in favor of advancement and against the extremist forces that threaten us and world peace.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discusses the agreement for Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on August 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Netanyahu said he has been working toward the goal of normalization with the Gulf since 2009.

“I always thought it was possible… I have been doing this constantly, for years,” he said, noting his contacts with Oman, Sudan and other states in the area that don’t have official ties with Israel.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said later Thursday that more Arab countries may soon announce normalized ties with Israel.

“We hope this is an icebreaker where Israel can now normalize relations with other countries,” Kushner said at a briefing with reporters, shortly after Trump announced the pact, adding that he thought there was a “very good chance” of another Israeli-Arab deal within months.

Kushner said the administration had been in talks with other Arab states to normalize ties with Israel, too. He suggested that more announcements will come over the next few months.

“We have a couple who were upset that they weren’t first,” Kushner said. “But… we will work very hard to create more and more normalizations over the coming time ahead.”

“I do think that this makes them more inevitable,” he continued. “But it will take trust being built and dialogue being facilitated. Hopefully, this makes it easier for others.

At one point, he was asked which other countries were in the mix. “Who is next?” Kushner asked back. “You will find out next.”

The governments of Bahrain and Egypt, and a Saudi official, welcomed the agreement, while Jordan issued a more tepid response. The Palestinians reacted with fury to the deal, calling it “a despicable betrayal.”

Israel agreed to shelve annexation of parts of the West Bank as part of the deal, but it was unclear if the move had been put on hold permanently or temporarily. Netanyahu said his plan to apply Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria with full American coordination had not changed and was still on the table, but that Trump had requested a temporary halt.

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