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Netanyahu reaches out to Bahrain in bid to step up cooperation

Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifah to visit the occupied Palestinian territories soon, in a move to further strengthen relations with the Persian Gulf country.

In a phone call on Sunday, the Israeli regime’s presumptive incoming prime minister told the Bahraini crown prince that the two sides face “great opportunities” and that he expects the direct line of communication between them to continue.

According to The Times of Israel, Netanyahu’s office reported that “the crown prince expressed Bahrain’s desire to broaden and deepen the relations between our countries and bring our collaboration to new heights.”

Following Netanyahu’s winning of elections while standing charges on corruption and political dysfunction, the diplomatic adviser to Bahrain’s king, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, said on November 6 that “Bahrain has an agreement with Israel, part of the Abraham Accords, and we will stick to our agreement and we expect it to continue in the same line and continue building our partnership together,”

In September 2020, Netanyahu signed normalization agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani during an official ceremony hosted by former US president Donald Trump at the White House. Sudan and Morocco followed suit later that year.

Senior Israeli officials, including former prime minister Naftali Bennett and minister of military affairs Benny Gantz, visited Manama recently in February. Bennett’s trip marked the first visit by an Israeli premier since Manama and Tel Aviv established ties under the US-sponsored normalization deals.

Gantz was accompanied by several top military officials, including Israeli navy chief Admiral David Saar Salama. Gantz and his Bahraini counterpart Abdulla bin Hasan Al Nuaimi signed a security pact.

Late in September, former Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived at the Manama airport to become the regime’s highest-ranking official to visit the Persian Gulf country since the forging of formal relations.

During the trip, Israel and Bahrain signed deals on cooperation in medicine, healthcare, sports, and water and environmental conservation. Tel Aviv also opened an embassy in Bahrain.

Bahrain and the Israeli regime are believed to have maintained covert ties on security and defense over the years.

Rejecting the move, Bahrain’s main opposition group al-Wefaq and the kingdom’s top cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim have repeatedly condemned the normalization move made by the Al Khalifah dynasty and reiterated that the deal lacks legitimacy.

Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011. The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

However, demonstrations intensified since the announcement of rapprochement with the Israeli regime, where Bahrain witnessed mass popular protests to denounce and reject such normalization.

Meanwhile, Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on public outrage against normalization with the Israeli regime, which adds to its long list of human rights violations since the political repression rose in 2011.

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