MANAMA, Bahrain — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel met Tuesday in Bahrain together with his Bahraini counterpart, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a part of a heat welcome that offered the most recent proof of the speedy and up to date realignment of Middle Eastern politics.
Mr. Bennett was scheduled to satisfy later within the afternoon with the prince’s father, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the pinnacle of state in Bahrain, a tiny however strategically positioned Gulf state.
Before assembly the royal household, Mr. Bennett met with members of Bahrain’s small Jewish group. Mr. Bennett gave them a shofar, the Jewish musical horn.
“I’m very delighted to be here in Bahrain, and I could think of no better way to kick off this visit than seeing my family here in Bahrain,” he mentioned. “All of you are indeed family. I come from Israel with good will, with warm friendship between the two peoples, and I’m sure you can be a remarkable bridge between Bahrain and Israel.”
The journey to Bahrain by Mr. Bennett, the primary official go to by an Israeli prime minister to the nation, showcased the rising power of ties between Israel and several other Arab governments over the past 18 months.
Since 2020, Israel has established formal diplomatic relations for the primary time with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, re-established relations with Morocco, and improved them with Sudan.
For years, the overwhelming majority of the Arab world refused to normalize relations with Israel so long as the Israeli-Palestinian battle remained unresolved.
Mr. Bennett arrived in Bahrain on Monday night time, descending from his aircraft to a purple carpet lined by a guard of honor, a greeting that highlights how priorities have modified for some international locations within the area.
For Bahrain, the containment of Iran and its armed proxies all through the area — a objective shared with Israel — is now of higher significance than Palestinian sovereignty, significantly as Iran accelerates its nuclear enrichment.
Bahrain, which can also be an ally of the United States and hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, will for the primary time host an Israeli army officer as a part of a regional alliance, an Israeli official confirmed Tuesday. The objective is to make sure freedom of navigation and worldwide commerce within the Persian Gulf, following a number of assaults by Iran and its proxies on ships within the space.
Bahrain’s invitation to Mr. Bennett additionally hinted at rising acceptance of Israel’s position within the area by Saudi Arabia, essentially the most influential state within the Arab world and a significant Iranian rival.
Officially, Saudi officers deny that the dominion plans to observe Bahrain by normalizing ties with Israel. The kingdom has additionally denied that the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, hosted a secret summit assembly in 2020 with Mr. Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was nonetheless in workplace on the time.
But Saudi assist is essential for Bahrain — Saudi troops rushed to Bahrain in 2011 to assist its authorities crush an rebellion, and the Saudi authorities bailed out the Bahraini economic system in 2018 — and analysts say that Bahrain, as a Saudi proxy, does little with out its settlement.
“Bahrain is always looking up to Saudi Arabia as their big brother that always stands by them in times of difficulties,” mentioned Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati political scientist and knowledgeable on Gulf politics.
Mr. Abdulla added, “There is more coordination than many people would assume between Bahrain, Saudi Arabia” and different Gulf States.
Leading Saudis have additionally made statements about Israel and the Palestinians that will have been unthinkable till solely not too long ago. In 2018, Prince Mohammed made headlines by asserting that Israelis had a proper to their very own land. Two years later, one other Saudi prince, Bandar bin Sultan, criticized the Palestinian management as failing atypical Palestinians.
Saudi film theaters are presently exhibiting a characteristic movie, “Death on the Nile,” that stars an Israeli actress, Gal Gadot, who’s unpopular within the Arab world for her public assist of Israeli army motion in Gaza.
Ties are additionally warming between Israel and the 2 Arab international locations with which it had beforehand cast an uneasy peace, Egypt and Jordan.
President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt drew discover in Israel on Monday when he made a present of publicly greeting a visiting Israeli authorities minister, Karine Elharrar, in entrance of tons of of different Arab dignitaries.
But if bonds between governments are strengthening, the sentiment among the many common public in Israel and the Arab world is lagging.
Polling suggests a majority of Arabs don’t assist the current diplomatic thaw in Israel. In Bahrain, the place dissent is rigorously contained, photographs and movies posted to social media on Tuesday confirmed small teams of demonstrators protesting in opposition to the Bahraini authorities and Israel.
International rights watchdogs say Bahrain has no free information media and that its judges are appointed by the royal household. The Khalifa household is a Sunni Muslim dynasty that has dominated Bahrain since 1783, presiding over a primarily Shia citizenry, whose members say they undergo systemic sectarian discrimination.
Exiled Bahraini rights activists famous that Mr. Bennett’s go to fell on the eleventh anniversary of the 2011 rebellion, and so they known as it a betrayal of the Palestinian nationwide motion and an endorsement of Israel’s insurance policies towards it.
“It feels like a damning insult,” mentioned Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director on the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, a London-based marketing campaign group. “This is the most important date in Bahrain’s recent history, when Bahrainis stood up against an autocracy — and 11 years later they have invited the head of an apartheid state.”