Bahrain's top diplomat visits Israel in latest sign of warming ties
Bahrain's foreign minister visited Israel on Wednesday in the latest sign of warming ties following a series of U.S.-brokered normalization accords between Israel and Arab nations. Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani was welcomed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport by his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi
Bahraini top diplomat arrived in Israel's capital on Wednesday for his first official visit to the country since Manama established diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv in September.
Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani flew into Tel Aviv on a Gulf Air passenger plane and was to hold meetings in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials.
He will also take part in a trilateral meeting with Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also expected to arrive Wednesday, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
The foreign minister was welcomed on the tarmac by his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, and other U.S. and Israeli officials. Everyone wore masks and tapped elbows in greeting due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Alzayani said the visit is "a strategic start to enhancing joint cooperation" between the countries, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.
"The Middle East has witnessed conflicts and instability over the past decades," he said. "The time has come for us to pursue other policies to reach a comprehensive solution."
Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this year. The breakthrough reflects the changing Middle East in which Israel and the Gulf countries view Iran as a shared threat that eclipses the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians.
Sudan also agreed to establish ties with Israel as part of a larger agreement with the United States that will pave the way for much-needed foreign aid following last year's overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir.
The Trump administration hailed all three agreements as historic breakthroughs in the lead-up to the election. President-elect Joe Biden also welcomed the agreements, and is expected to build on them as he presses Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations.
Before this year's accords, only Egypt and Jordan had recognized Israel, as part of peace treaties negotiated more than 25 years ago. Israel hopes to cultivate much warmer ties with the Gulf countries, aiming for cooperation across various fields, including tourism and public health.
In normalizing ties with Israel, the three nations broke with a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition should only be granted in return for concessions in the peace process. The Palestinians condemned the normalization accords as a betrayal of their cause.