Isaac Herzog makes first trip by Israeli president to Bahrain

Herzog meets king and crown prince on a trip made possible after their two countries normalised relations in 2020.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa receives Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the capital Manama
In this handout picture obtained from the Israeli government, Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, right, receives Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Manama on December 4, 2022 [Amos Ben-Gershom/Israeli Government Press Office via AFP]

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has held talks with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa during the first trip by an Israeli head of state to the small Gulf kingdom.

Herzog made the trip on Sunday after the two countries normalised diplomatic relations in 2020.

The leaders discussed issues that included regional security and “ways to encourage communication between the representatives of the private sector in the two countries”, the official Bahrain News Agency said.

A delegation of industry and business representatives accompanied Herzog, who was welcomed upon arrival by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani.

The king said his country supports “achieving a just, comprehensive and sustainable peace that guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and that will lead to stability, development and prosperity for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples as well as all peoples of the region,” the news agency said.

Herzog said on Twitter that he welcomed Hamad’s “vision of peace, friendship and tolerance”.

“My visit underscores the importance Israel attaches to relations with Bahrain, including partnerships on defence, trade, tourism and environment,” he said.

“The expanding circle of peace [in the Middle East] is highly important, especially amid threats to global and regional stability,” Israel’s president said. “In the face of hate, threats and terror, there is one answer: alliances with friends.”

During his two-day visit, Herzog is scheduled to meet with members of the Jewish community in Bahrain.

Normalising ties

Two years ago, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco became the first Arab states in decades to normalise relations with Israel after negotiations spearheaded by the administration of former United States President Donald Trump.

Other countries in the region, notably Saudi Arabia, have repeatedly said they would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until its conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

Israel reached peace treaties with neighbouring Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, then Israel’s top diplomat, visited Bahrain in September last year to open the Israeli embassy there.

In February, Israel signed a defence agreement with Bahrain, and Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country.

On Monday, Herzog is due to be a guest of the president of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The meeting is expected to include talks on cooperation in the space sector.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies