WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States, hosted a two-hour luncheon for Evangelical leaders at his residence in northern Virginia.

His goal: to brief us on why his Gulf Arab nation chose to join the United Arab Emirates in signing the Abraham Accords to make peace with Israel, and why Bahrain announced its decision to do so on Sept. 11, the anniversary of the barbaric terrorist attacks on the United States by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network.

Joining me at the lunch were:

• Amb. Ken Blackwell, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission

• Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

• Michael Little, former president of the Christian Broadcasting Network

• A. Larry Ross, former spokesman for Billy Graham for 30 years

Each of these men has been a key member of the six Evangelical delegations I have led to meet with senior Arab leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa over the last several years.

Each are also founding board members — or advisory board members — of ALL ARAB NEWS and ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

In 2019, the Ambassador invited us to bring our seventh delegation to the Kingdom of Bahrain to meet with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and other senior Bahraini officials. Unfortunately, the complications of the global coronavirus pandemic forced us to postpone those plans.

That said, we are eager to reschedule the trip soon and personally thank the King for his bold and historic decision to make peace with Israel and to get to better understand his vision for the future of the Middle East and explore ways to strengthen the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Bahrain.

While the specifics of this conversation were off the record so we could all speak freely, including on a number of sensitive matters, the ambassador has agreed to do an on-the-record interview with me soon for ALL ARAB NEWS.

For now, I can report how Bahrain decided that this was the moment to say “yes” to peace with Israel. It is a fascinating and important story, and worthy of more in-depth reporting.

For one thing, Bahraini leaders don’t even like to call what they are doing “normalization” because they have been steadily warming up relations with the Jewish state for years.

They prefer to call their decision “formalization.”

They want to codify and bring into the open their desire to engage in the fullest and warmest peace with Israel — not just an exchange of ambassadors and embassies but robust trade, tourism, investment, sports and cultural exchanges.

As we enjoyed an excellent meal of grilled grouper fish, Machboosh rice, kebba and Baharian kebab, we discussed at length what a strong and faithful ally Bahrain has been to the U.S.

It is, of course, home to a vital American naval base and thousands of U.S. Navy personnel and Marines.

After 9/11, Bahrain was the first Arab ally to commit to sending military forces to Afghanistan to help us fight al Qaeda.

The ambassador is intriguing. Born in 1980, he is the son of Bahrain’s interior minister, is part of the ruling family and served as governor in Bahrain.

The U.S. is actually his first assignment as an ambassador. He arrived in Washington in April 2017.

It’s been a dramatic and historic ride so far.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al-Khalifa and All Arab News Editor-in-Chief Joel C. Rosenberg (Photo: All Arab News)

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