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Bahrain follows Emirates in normalizing ties with Israel

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Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalize relations with Israel on Friday, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.

U.S. President Donald Trump posted the announcement on Twitter after he spoke by phone, according to the White House, to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This is truly a historic day,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, saying he believed other countries would follow suit.

Cabinet members and Foreign Service Officers applaud after US President Donald J. Trump’s (C) announcement that Bahrain would normalize relations with Israel, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington DC, USA, on 11 September 2020. EPA-EFE/Anna Moneymaker / POOL

“Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region,” the United States, Bahrain and Israel said in a joint statement.

Palestinians were dismayed, fearing the moves by Bahrain and its fellow Gulf Arab state, the United Arab Emirates, will weaken a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

A month ago, the UAE agreed to normalize ties with Israel under a U.S.-brokered deal scheduled to be signed at a White House ceremony on Tuesday hosted by Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3.

The ceremony is due to be attended by Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The joint statement said Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani will join that ceremony and sign a “historic Declaration of Peace” with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said Bahrain’s decision marks a “new era of peace.”

“For many long years, we invested in peace, and now peace will invest in us, will bring about truly major investments in Israel’s economy,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hend al-Otaiba congratulated Bahrain and Israel, saying it marked “another significant and historic achievement which will contribute enormously to the stability and prosperity of the region.”

Bahrain, a small island state, is home to the U.S. Navy’s regional headquarters. Saudi Arabia in 2011 sent troops to Bahrain to help quell an uprising and, alongside Kuwait and the UAE, in 2018 offered Bahrain a $10 billion economic bailout.

Bahrain became the fourth Arab country to reach such an agreement with Israel, which exchanged embassies with Egypt and Jordan decades ago.

A statement issued in the name of the Palestinian leadership condemned the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects this step taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain and calls on it to immediately retreat from it due to the great harm it causes to the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people and joint Arab action,” the statement said.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the Palestinian ambassador to Bahrain was called back for consultations.

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