It’s official: the Kingdom of Bahrain has agreed to normalize relations with the State of Israel making it the fourth Arab nation to have full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
President Donald Trump posted a statement on Twitter with this introduction: “Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain agree to a Peace Deal – the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days!”
Here are some excerpts from his joint statement with Bahrain and Israel:
“His Majesty King Hamad bin Salman al-Kalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke today and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
“This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East. 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 statement also says that the Kingdom of Bahrain has agreed to attend the Washington D.C. signing ceremony of a peace treaty between the United Arab Emirates and Israel on Sept. 15.
Netanyahu released a prepared statement after the start of the Sabbath in Israel on Friday night.
“Citizens of Israel, I am excited to inform you that tonight we will reach another peace agreement with another Arab country, Bahrain,” he said. “This follows the historic peace agreement with the UAE. It took us 26 years to get from the second peace agreement with an Arab state to the third peace agreement, and it took us not 26 years but 29 days to reach the peace agreement between the third Arab state and the fourth Arab state, and there will be more.”
Sheikh Khalifa, the Diplomatic Advisor to King Hamas said that the “establishment of relations between Bahrain and Israel is in the interest of the region’s security, stability and prosperity. It sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of Israel, that a just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people is the best path and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”
“When Bahrain places the approach of openness and coexistence at the forefront of its foreign policy priorities, it is building on centuries of coexistence and societal cohesion between different races and religions,” he continued.” Bahrain’s success in doing so gives us optimism.”
On Sept. 2, I wrote an analysis on why I believed Bahrain would be the next to make peace.
Here was my case.
In June 2019, Bahrain hosted a critically important meeting to help the White House unveil the economic strategy of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Held in its capital of Manama, the “Peace To Prosperity” workshop was led by Jared Kushner, and included senior diplomats and financial experts from most of the Gulf countries. They laid out a plan to invest $50 billion in the Palestinian economy to build factories, infrastructure, water desalinization plants and so forth in order to create 1 million new jobs and dramatically lower Palestinian unemployment.
In January 2020, when President Trump formally unveiled his full “Vision For Peace” document with Netanyahu, the Bahraini ambassador to the U.S. was in attendance, along with the ambassadors from the UAE and Oman.
Not surprisingly, then, the Bahraini leadership was quick to heap effusive praise on the United Arab Emirates for their historic decision to make peace and full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, even though the Palestinian leadership still refuses to do so.
In late August, Secretary Pompeo held closed-door meetings with Bahrain’s royal family, including King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and his son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Pompeo left, however, without an announcement of another peace deal.
Just this week, immediately after leaving the UAE, Jared Kushner and his team flew to Bahrain for high-level meetings. (Kushner also went to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.)
Such moves add to my sense that Bahrain is actively considering a big decision. And, I also have been in direct and regular contact with the Bahrainis over the past year and am encouraged by what I see.
Last August (2019), I met with Bahrain’s then-Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Georgetown section of Washington. He knew that I was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and author, with sons in the Israeli army, and that I live in Jerusalem, where we have bought an apartment.
We had extensive conversations on a number of topics, including the advance of religious freedom in the kingdom, and about the road toward a full peace agreement between Bahrain and Israel. I came away sensing that it was not only a matter of timing, but of making certain that Israel takes more concrete steps to make peace with the Palestinians.
Later that week at a State Department conference on religious freedom, the Bahraini foreign minister met briefly – for just a few minutes, really – with Israel Katz, then Israel’s foreign minister. They snapped a picture together and tweeted it out and this created a bit of a sensation and raised expectations of steadily warming relations.
Khalid Al Khalifa now serves as King Hamad’s Advisor for Diplomatic Affairs. Upon hearing the breaking news in August of Abu Dhabi’s decision, he tweeted in Arabic to his 530,000 followers, warmly praising the peace deal: “We commend the #UAE for its position which upholds the rights of all without compromise, and its serious steps towards establishing peace and laying the foundation for common prosperity for the peoples of the region.”
I can also report that I had lunch in Washington in July with Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States Abdullah bin Rashid al-Khalifa.
We have been in regular contact since we first met in Washington in March 2019 when the UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba first graciously introduced us and took us to lunch together.
The two of us even decided to tour the Museum of the Bible together when I was back in Washington last December, my first time there and the ambassador’s first official visit, though he had been there previously with friends.
During our July luncheon, I pressed the ambassador to urge his government to become the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
“Whichever Arab country makes peace with Israel next,” I argued, “is not only doing the right thing but is going to benefit from a windfall of enthusiastic public support from Americans generally, and Evangelicals in particular. The Bible commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The last Arab-Israeli peace treaty was 25 years ago. It’s time for another. Why not Bahrain?”
I’m not at liberty at the moment to quote his response, but it was not hostile. Note that this was several weeks before the UAE move.
Upon hearing the news of Abu Dhabi’s decision, the ambassador re-tweeted Khalid Al Khalifa’s statement, translating it into English.
The ambassador then tweeted his own statement: “Congratulations to the #UAE and its leadership for reaching an agreement with #Israel, and for its efforts to strengthen stability and peace in the region; recognizing the instrumental role of the #UnitedStates of #America in reaching this historic agreement.”
At the same time, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry tweeted that: “#Bahrain congratulates #UAE, commends suspension of Palestinian territories annexation as a step towards peace in the Middle East.”
The foreign minister also sent out a link to the following statement:
The Kingdom of Bahrain expresses its sincere congratulations to the sisterly State of the United Arab Emirates and its wise leadership for announcing with the United States of America and Israel an agreement halting the annexation of the Palestinian territories, as step towards the achievement of peace in the Middle East.
The Kingdom of Bahrain commends the sincere diplomatic efforts made by the UAE and stresses that this historic step will contribute to the consolidation of stability and peace in the region.
It hails, at the same time, the great efforts made by the United States of America to reach this deal, in continuation of US efforts to strengthen the foundations of world security, stability and peace and looks forward to more efforts to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.