Countries said to agree to direct flights, joint ventures

After announcement of Bahrain ties, Israel says it wants to quickly open embassy

FMs speak on phone, discuss advancing common interests; Foreign Ministry official says Jerusalem hopes to establish diplomatic presence in Manama as soon as possible

Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, as pictured in a tweet from the Bahrain foreign ministry after their first publicly acknowledged phone call, September 12, 2020 (Twitter)
Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, as pictured in a tweet from the Bahrain foreign ministry after their first publicly acknowledged phone call, September 12, 2020 (Twitter)

A day after the announcement that Bahrain is establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Saturday that Jerusalem would work to establish an embassy in Manama in the near future.

“We will work to open an embassy in Bahrain as soon as possible,” the unnamed official told several Hebrew-language media outlets.

The two country’s foreign ministers, Israel’s Gabi Ashkenazi and Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, spoke on the phone Saturday, exchanged congratulations on the deal and discussed the importance of pushing relations forward in various fields and in support of common interests.

The call was the first at this level to be publicly acknowledged, with details tweeted by Bahrain.

In a statement later, Ahkenazi hailed the new “important landmark in efforts to normalize ties between Israel and the region’s nations.”

He said he told Al Zayani he was “keenly awaiting continuing to work together” and bringing “achievements for the two countries and for the benefit of our citizens. They are the ones who should be the focus of our work.”

Al Zayani is set to sign a “Declaration of Peace” alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, formalizing the two countries’ establishment of normalized diplomatic relations, after the breakthrough was announced by US President Donald Trump on Friday. The White House ceremony is being held to mark last month’s UAE-Israel normalization agreement, and Bahrain is now also establishing ties in what Trump called “another historic breakthrough.”

According to Kan news, in addition to the establishment of embassies and the appointment of ambassadors, the two countries have also agreed to the operation of direct flights as well as a number of unspecified joint ventures. Earlier this month, Bahrain announced that it was opening its airspace to Israeli flights.

US President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on September 11, 2020, in Washington.(AP/Andrew Harnik)

A joint statement released by the White House on Friday said Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Salman al-Khalifa spoke earlier in the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain agree to a Peace Deal – the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days!” Trump tweeted.

The US invitation to the Abraham Accords ceremony at the White House on September 15, 2020

Israel and the UAE announced they were normalizing relations on August 13, and the signing ceremony for their accord is being held at the White House on September 15. Bahrain will now join that ceremony, with its foreign minister Al Zayani and Netanyahu signing “a historic Declaration of Peace,” the joint statement said.

Netanyahu hailed the agreement as part of a “new era of peace” and predicted more accords would follow.

The Bahraini king’s senior adviser Khalid al-Khalifa said in a statement that the normalization deal “sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of Israel, that a just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people is the best path and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”

This combination of pictures created on September 11, 2020 shows (L) Israeli 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 (GCC) summit held at the Saudi capital Riyadh on December 10, 2019 ( RONEN ZVULUN and Fayez Nureldine / various sources / AFP)

The joint statement specified that the parties would continue their efforts to achieve a “just, comprehensive and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to enable the Palestinian people to reach their full potential.”

Nonetheless, the accord constitutes another major blow to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had condemned the UAE-Israel deal as despicable and a betrayal, and sought in vain to have the Arab League condemn it earlier this week. The PA denounced the Israel-Bahrain agreement, said it “torpedoes” the Arab Peace Initiative, and recalled its ambassador to Manama. “It is delusional to believe that these concessions at the expense of the Palestinian people’s rights will serve peace, security, and stability in the region,” the PA said.

The kingdom of Bahrain, a tiny island nation close to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, had been expected by many to be the next country to establish relations with Israel, as it has long made public overtures to the Jewish state. It hosted the first major gathering of the Trump administration’s peace effort, a Peace to Prosperity workshop, in Manama in June 2019.

In the weeks since the normalization deal with the UAE was announced on August 13, US and Israeli officials have said other Arab states will follow the Emirates’ lead and normalize ties with Israel, with speculation also focusing on Oman and Sudan.

Jacob Magid and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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