A joint American-Israeli delegation, which flew on an El Al plane out of Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday morning landed in Bahrain in the early afternoon for discussions on bilateral agreements following an announcement last month to normalize relations.
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who led the Israeli delegation, delivered a speech upon arrival to the airport in Manama, opening in Arabic and continuing in Hebrew. He quoted from Beraishis: “‘Let there be light, and there was light. And G-d saw it was good.’ Let us bring light and goodness.”
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani spoke and called for a “genuine and lasting peace…leading to a truly peaceful, secure, stable and thriving Middle East.”
The U.S. delegation is led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz, who also spoke at the ceremony in the airport upon arriving in Bahrain.
ראש המל"ל מאיר בן שבת בשדה התעופה בבחריין, בשפה הערבית: "מודים למלך אאל ח'ליפה על הנהגתו באומץ. מקווים שזה ייצור חברות חמה בינינו. ישראל מושיטה ידה לשלום אמיתי לעם הבחרייני. ביחד נשנה את פני האזור לטובת עמינו. אני מודה לאמריקנים על מאמציהם, אנשאללה נארח אתכם בישראל בקרוב" pic.twitter.com/YAHExBfGY5
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) October 18, 2020
— USEmbassyJerusalem (@usembassyjlm) October 18, 2020
Berkowitz recorded the captain’s pre-takeoff message on the flight, an idea he said he “borrowed” from Jared Kushner, who did the same on the historic flight to the United Arab Emirates.
🇺🇸🇮🇱🇧🇭 Listen to the El Al captain pre takeoff from 🇮🇱 –> 🇧🇭. (I “borrowed” the idea for this video from Jared Kushner 😊 who led the flight on 8/31 from Israel to the UAE) pic.twitter.com/XuPFmlrBEi
— Avi Berkowitz (@aviberkow45) October 18, 2020
The U.S., Israeli and Bahraini flags festooned the tarmac at Ben-Gurion before take-off and a ceremony was held prior to the delegation boarding the plane at which Berkowitz, Ben-Shabbat and Mnuchin spoke about the expected agreements with Bahrain that will be discussed in Manama.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is also part of the delegation, said before takeoff: “We’re here to take next step in the Abraham Accords. Today, we bring the Tanach back to life. The children of Yitzchak and children of Yishmael are reconciling once again in this holy land, and in Bahrain, and in the United Arab Emirates as well.”
Ben-Shabbat said that agreements will be reached on banking, finance, investment, tourism, communications, aviation, communications, technology and agriculture. He quoted Tefillas HaDerech: “May Hashem guide us safely and bring us to our desired destination, to life, to happiness and peace.”
الوفد الاسرائيلي في طريقه الى البحرين 🇧🇭🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/WqENbkytez
— إسرائيل في الخليج (@IsraelintheGulf) October 18, 2020
Israel’s commercial El Al flight 973 — a nod to the international dialing code for Bahrain — will fly through Saudi Arabia’s airspace en route to Manama, where dignitaries from all three countries will speak at a ceremony after landing.
Another Israeli official said the visit represents the official establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries with the sides expected to sign a joint statement establishing full diplomatic relations.
As part of the deal to normalize relations, the two Gulf Arab states and Israel will eventually establish embassies and exchange ambassadors. The Israeli official said the Israeli embassy was expected to open in Bahrain in the coming months.
Similar to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain is expected to open its embassy at some point in the city of Tel Aviv, where most foreign embassies are located because of Jerusalem’s contested status.
Bahraini and Israeli officials have held numerous conversations since announcing their intention to establish full ties. Sunday’s face-to-face meetings, however, are seen as another step toward normalization.
The Israeli delegation is slated to fly back to Tel Aviv later on Sunday, while the Americans will head to the UAE for meetings. On Tuesday, the U.S. officials will join the UAE’s first delegation to Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel and the UAE have already signed a number of business, banking and intergovernmental agreements.
Bahrain and the UAE signed the agreement to normalize relations with Israel in a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15. Egypt and Jordan are the only other two Arab states to sign diplomatic treaties with Israel, in 1979 and 1994, respectively.
The accords made public what had been a gradual strengthening of quiet ties between Israel and several Gulf states — forged in recent years over a shared concern over regional rival Iran. Other Arab countries could follow suit, with analysts and insiders pointing to Sudan, Oman and Morocco as possibilities.
The trip to Bahrain on Sunday also came as U.N. arms embargoes on Iran expired despite American objections. Bahrain, like several other Gulf Arab nations, views Iran as the most-serious threat to its security in the Persian Gulf.
Last month, the first known commercial flight between the two countries brought a delegation of Israeli officials to Manama to discuss cooperation between Israel and Bahrain following the signing of an agreement to normalize ties. It is home the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and a recently built British naval base.
Although Bahrain, an island state, is a smaller and less wealthy nation than the UAE, its strategic location in the Persian Gulf lends it geostrategic significance and it serves as a trading hub and a naval defensive position. It is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and a recently built British naval base.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)