Bahrain Rejects Normalization With Israel

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From left, U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Bahraini national security adviser Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa meet at Sakhir Palace in Manama, Bahrain, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. Pompeo held closed-door meetings Wednesday with Bahrain's royal family and top officials in the United Arab Emirates amid the Trump administration's push for Arab nations to recognize Israel. (Bahrain News Agency via AP)

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King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain seemingly rejected US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s push for normalizing ties with Israel on the latter’s trip to the Middle East to propel the momentum of the UAE-Israeli peace deal.

Al-Khalifa told Pompeo at their meeting in the capital city of Manama that Bahrain is still committed to the Arab Peace initiative – a Saudi-backed initiative proposed in 2002, which laid out several conditions for recognition of Israel, including the establishment of a Palestinian state with an Eastern Jerusalem capital, Israeli withdrawal from land captured in the Six-Day War and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

“The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution… to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” a report by the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said.

Bahrain was the first Gulf state to congratulate the UAE on its deal with Israel and was considered one of the more likely Gulf states to make the same move.

Following Israel’s deal with the Emirates, Israeli media reports said that Israel was conducting advanced discussions with Bahrain on the agreement.

Bahrain, a small island nation just off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, has a historic Jewish community. The kingdom has slowly encouraged ties to Israel, with two U.S.-based rabbis in 2017 saying King Hamad himself promoted the idea of ending the boycott of Israel by Arab nations.

Bahrain is also home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and remains a close security partner of the U.S.

Pompeo landed later Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the seven-sheikhdom federation of the UAE. There, he met with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the nation’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The officials discussed issues such as Iran and the “mutual support for de-escalation and a lasting cease-fire in Libya,” a later State Department statement said. Pompeo himself on Twitter praised the deal between the UAE and Israel as “the most significant step toward peace in the Middle East in over 25 years.”

While in Abu Dhabi, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told the state-run WAM news agency that “incredibly positive conversations going on” between Israel, the UAE and the U.S. over issues, including the F-35 sale to Abu Dhabi.

“With respect to the F-35 or any military hardware or infrastructure, I keep reminding people that it is important to know that the UAE and U.S. military and security relationship is robust and has been there for decades,” Ortagus said. “This is not a new relationship. This is a sophisticated relationship that we have had for decades.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)