Israel and Bahrain on Sunday agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations, making the Gulf country the fourth Arab state to normalize ties with Israel. The US-brokered agreement capped a one-day visit by a high-level delegation of American and Israeli officials to Bahrain.
Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates at a White House ceremony last month marking the “Abraham Accords,” a pair of US-brokered diplomatic pacts with Israel. While the UAE’s deal with Israel formally established ties, the agreement with Bahrain was included a mutual pledge to follow suit.
Sunday’s visit cleared the way for the countries to open embassies and exchange ambassadors in the coming months.
“It was indeed an historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries, to have fruitful bilateral relations in both fields,” said Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif al-Zayani, at the signing ceremony.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, led the delegations.
“Today we made the first formal step in bringing closer ties between the countries,” Ben-Shabbat said. “We were accepted with open arms, with warmth and cordiality.”
“This is an important step in stability in the region, in bring prosperity to all the people in the region and in the countries,” added Mnuchin.
Israel’s agreements with the UAE and Bahrain have marked diplomatic victories for the Trump administration and for Netanyahu.
But they have come under heavy criticism from the Palestinians, who have long counted on a unified Arab stance that recognition of Israel should come only after the Palestinians achieve an independent state of their own.
Egypt and Jordan are the only other two Arab states to sign diplomatic treaties with Israel, in 1979 and 1994, respectively. Other Arab countries could follow suit, with analysts pointing to Sudan, Oman and Morocco as possibilities.