Israeli Prime Minister Bennett departs for surprise historic visit to Bahrain
Bennett set to meet with Bahrain’s king and crown prince following a new security agreement between the two countries and amid the Vienna nuclear talks with Iran
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to make a first-ever official visit by an Israeli premier to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Bennett was set to depart to the Gulf nation on Monday afternoon and will meet with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who serves as the prime minister.
Upon departure, Bennett told reporters that the goal of his visit is to fill the peace agreements between the two countries with “energy and content.”
“Especially in these tumultuous times, I think it is important to send a message of goodwill, of cooperation and of standing together against common challenges,” he added.
Bennett and the crown prince first met at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held this past November in Glasgow, where the crown prince invited the prime minister to make his first official visit to Bahrain.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the leaders will discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties and “the importance of peace, advancement and prosperity in the region, and especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation.”
The Israeli prime minister will also meet with Bahrain’s ministers of Finance, Industry and Transport, and with representatives of the local Jewish community.
Bennett’s surprise visit comes two weeks after Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz had also visited the country. Gantz signed an historic defense agreement with Bahrain’s king, which formalizes security ties between the two countries and provides a framework for future cooperation in the areas of intelligence, shared trainings and industrial collaboration.
The security agreement took effect shortly after, with a permanent deployment of an IDF Navy officer to Bahrain. The Israeli officer is expected to be officially stationed over the next two weeks. His mission will focus on maintaining communications with the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, which is based in Bahrain.
Both Israel and Bahrain are closely following the nuclear talks with Iran which resumed on Monday in Vienna. The Abraham Accords partners are concerned that negotiations will lead to a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) and a lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran.