In a move that surprised no one, Bahrain and Israel agreed on Friday to establish full diplomatic ties, formalizing more than two decades of clandestine relations.
President Donald Trump announced the US-brokered agreement in a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Joint Statement of the United States, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the State of Israel pic.twitter.com/xMquRkGtpM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2020
The statement was also published in Arabic by Bahrain’s foreign ministry:
البيان الرسمي المشترك بين الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، ومملكة البحرين، ودولة إسرائيل pic.twitter.com/oqu4D7lsrf
— وزارة الخارجية 🇧🇭 (@bahdiplomatic) September 11, 2020
The three leaders spoke on the phone following the announcement.
Bahrain and Israel “will exchange embassies and ambassadors, begin direct flights between their countries and launch cooperation initiatives,” Trump announced at an Oval Office press conference.
Areas of cooperation will include health, business, technology, education, security and agriculture, Trump said.
During the leaders’ call, Bahrain’s king reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the moribund two-state solution, according to Bahrain’s official news agency.
Declaring support for a two-state solution they are doing nothing to advance is a standard tactic by Arab and European governments to deflect from their complicity and inaction as Israel continues to violently colonize Palestinian land.
Supporting the nonexistent “peace process” is also used as an excuse for public and private dealings with Israel.
Both countries will sign the agreements with Israel in a White House ceremony on 15 September.
Both normalization agreements are being described as treaties of “peace,” despite neither countries having actually engaged in war with Israel.
“It’s just a very historic day, a very important day and so interesting that it’s on 9/11. It’s such a great time,” Trump told reporters.
“These treaties are the result of tireless work behind the scenes over many years,” Netanyahu said in a video address on Friday.
A grinning Netanyahu also celebrated the fact that Israel was gaining “peace for peace” – a term long used by Netanyahu in opposition to the formula “land for peace” that was for decades meant to be the basis of negotiations.
“Peace for peace” means, in effect, that Israel is getting full, normal relations in exchange for nothing.
Unlike the United Arab Emirates – which tried to spin its agreement to normalize relations as an exchange for Israel suspending plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank – Bahrain does not pretend it has achieved anything for Palestinians.
Bahrain’s foreign minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani will lead his country’s delegation to Washington on Tuesday to sign what Trump called the “Declaration of Peace.”
Hend Al Otaiba, spokesperson for the UAE foreign ministry, confirmed that her country’s foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan – brother of the country’s crown prince – will lead the Emirati delegation.
Al Otaiba welcomed Bahrain’s decision.
Netanyahu said he would lead the Israeli delegation.
Behind the scenes
A Bahraini official called Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz a few hours after the announcement of the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel on 13 August.
“We want to be the next Arab state to normalize relations with Israel,” the unnamed senior Bahraini official told Trump’s advisers, Israeli publication Walla reported.
Talks ensued between US and Bahraini officials, and Kushner’s delegation visited Manama after their trip to Israel and the United Arab Emirates in late August and early September.
Kushner carried with him a Torah scroll which he presented to the Bahrainis as a gift for the monarch.
It was important for them to secure the deal before the 15 September White House ceremony to encourage others in the region to move towards normalization.
The deal was sealed when Saudi Arabia “gave the green light” to Bahrain, Walla reported.
History of covert relations
Bahrain’s rush to be next to betray Palestine is hardly surprising.
The tiny island state’s ties with Israel and US lobby groups have been strengthening in recent years.
It was in Manama that the Trump administration’s so-called “Peace to Prosperity” conference was hosted in June 2019, where the economic component of the US Middle East “peace” plan was announced.
Palestinians were starkly absent from the festivities.
Al Khalifa was the most brazenly pro-Israel Gulf official even before any Gulf state established formal relations with Israel.
He had previously approached Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni at the February 2017 Munich Security Conference to relay a message on behalf of Bahrain’s king that he had decided to move towards normalization with Israel and wanted her to inform Netanyahu.
Livni and Al Khalifa even posed for a picture together on another occasion:
במפגש הערב עם שר החוץ הבחרייני, שייח׳ חאלד אל-חליפה. שיתפתי אותו בהערכה בה התקבלה פנייתו הישירה לציבור הישראלי וחשיבות העמדות המאוזנות שהביע. pic.twitter.com/n18bx9Uq1K
— ציפי לבני Tzipi Livni (@Tzipi_Livni) June 27, 2019
Livni has been repeatedly pursued internationally by prosecutors for questioning over her role in war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
His warming up to the Israel lobby goes back at least a decade.
Top Israel lobbyist William Daroff posted a picture of himself and Al Khalifa, which he said was taken at the house of prominent American rabbi Levi Shemtov in 2010.
As we celebrate the Bahrain-Israel peace agreement, I salute former Bahrain Foreign Minister @khalidalkhalifa for his forward-looking engagement with the American Jewish community. Photo below 2010 at the home of @shemtovdc… pic.twitter.com/NIQMlWTHQ7
— William Daroff (@Daroff) September 11, 2020
Daroff is the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which brings together the leaders of some of the most influential anti-Palestinian groups.
Israel has previously sold Bahrain sophisticated spy software which was reportedly used to spy on human rights activists.
A delegation from the American Jewish Committee, a major Israel lobby group, visited Bahrain last year and met with top officials.
Months earlier, the group presented Bahrain with an award for being “opening and welcoming” towards it. Al Khalifa even received the award on his country’s behalf.
In 2017, Bahrain’s king denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and declared that citizens of his Gulf nation would now be allowed to visit Israel.
A Bahraini delegation from the “interfaith” organization This is Bahrain even traveled to Israel in 2017 claiming that “the king sent us.”
In occupied East Jerusalem, the delegation was met with outright rejection from Palestinians who viewed it as normalization with Israel.
This is Bahrain has significant ties with Zionist individuals and groups.
I see a lot of tweeps in #Bahrain writing they’re ashamed to be Bahraini today. I’ll never be ashamed to be Bahraini, I’m proud of the people who fight injustice locally and have always stood with justice #Palestine. Bahrain is it’s people, the regimes only represent themselves
— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) September 11, 2020
Never been more embarrassed to be a Bahraini. The land of Palestine will always and forever belong to Palestinians 🇵🇸!!#بحرينيون_ضد_التطبيع
— رزان (@ralmakaali) September 11, 2020
— 𝒜 ❀ (@Asmmmaaa) September 11, 2020
Photo credits to @ fathom_the_road on Instagram pic.twitter.com/zEHgVBQkzO
— whitest Gurll | لا للتطبيع 🇵🇸 (@manarsaif) September 11, 2020
The Bahraini Society Against Normalization with the Zionist Enemy rejected the agreement in a Tweet on Friday.
— الجمعية البحرينية لمقاومة التطبيع (@bsaz_bh) September 11, 2020
“How do you look at the hands that shake yours and not see blood on each palm?” it read.
(Source: The Electronic Intifada)