Bahrain joins UAE in normalising ties with Israel

Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel in a move leaving the Palestinians further isolated, news wires reported. US President Donald Trump posted the announcement on Twitter after he spoke by phone, according to the White House, to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region,” the US, Bahrain and Israel said in a joint statement. “This is truly a historic day,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, saying he believed other countries would follow suit.

A month ago, the UAE agreed to normalise ties with Israel under a US-brokered deal scheduled to be signed at a White House ceremony on Tuesday hosted by Trump. The ceremony is due to be attended by Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The joint statement said Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani will join that ceremony and sign a “historic Declaration of Peace” with Netanyahu. Netanyahu said Bahrain’s decision marks a “new era of peace.”

Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hend al-Otaiba congratulated Bahrain and Israel, saying it marked “another significant and historic achievement which will contribute enormously to the stability and prosperity of the region.” Bahrain would become the fourth Arab country to reach such an agreement with Israel, which exchanged embassies with Egypt and Jordan decades ago.

But Palestinians were dismayed, fearing the moves by Bahrain and the UAE, will weaken a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries. Iran called Bahrain’s move to normalise ties with Israel shameful.

A statement issued in the name of the Palestinian leadership condemned the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. “The Palestinian leadership rejects this step taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain and calls on it to immediately retreat from it due to the great harm it causes to the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people and joint Arab action,” the statement said. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the Palestinian ambassador to Bahrain was called back for consultations.

The forging of relations with Israel is happening against a backdrop of shared fears about the threat that Iran may pose to the region. The biggest question now is whether Saudi Arabia, one of the Middle East’s most influential countries and a close US ally, will follow suit.

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