Top Diplomats from US, Bahrain Arrive in Israel for Historic Summit
Mike Pompeo, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and host Binyamin Netanyahu praise ‘warm peace’ in the making
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem on Wednesday for a historic trilateral meeting.
“Just two months ago, we made history in Washington,” Netanyahu noted at a joint press conference with Pompeo and Zayani at his official Jerusalem residence. “Today, we are making history again.”
The prime minister expressed hope that Wednesday’s events would “mark another important milestone on the road to peace between our two countries and peace in the region…. [We are building] a bridge of peace that many others will cross in the future.”
In a celebratory White House ceremony in September, Bahrain, alongside the United Arab Emirates, signed the Abraham Accords and normalized diplomatic relations with Israel. Several weeks later, Sudan announced it would be joining the agreements.
Zayani thanked his Israeli hosts and his American counterpart, noting that after having met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi earlier in the day, he was “greatly encouraged… and optimistic” for the future.
“It has been obvious: the intention and keenness of all sides to ensure that the peace we are pursuing will be a warm peace that will deliver clear benefits for our people,” the Bahraini foreign minister said.
It has been obvious: the intention and keenness of all sides to ensure that the peace we are pursuing will be a warm peace that will deliver clear benefits for our people
Pompeo, in Israel as part of a regional farewell tour, echoed Netanyahu’s remarks, saying the US was “hopeful that there will be many more [states] to follow” in making peace with Israel.
The secretary also addressed other, less friendly faces in the Middle East, warning “malign actors like… Iran that their influence in the region is waning and they are ever more isolated.”
The secretary of state touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport several hours after Zayani, who, leading the first-ever official delegation from Manama, was welcomed on the tarmac by Ashkenazi.
The top Israeli diplomat quoted David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s legendary founder and first prime minister, in his remarks to his counterpart.
“We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their people in an offer of peace,” Ashkenazi said.
We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their people in an offer of peace
“We are united by the goal of delivering the fruits of peace to our people. We are committed to the swift and full implementation of the peace and normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain,” he said, adding that the countries had formed teams of experts to implement proposals and “make concrete progress.”
Zayani thanked Ashkenazi for the warm welcome.
“I come from a country convinced of the importance of peace, from a people who believe in coexistence, mutual respect and the acceptance of others,” he said.
“[This visit] would have appeared impossible only a few months ago,” he marveled. “Now [it] seems to happen almost weekly. That is a testament to the seriousness of both sides.”
Last month, a similar delegation from the UAE made its first official visit to Israel, conducting bilateral meetings and roundtable discussions with Israeli officials.
Zayani said he was “encouraged by the genuinely open and constructive atmosphere” that he hoped would lead to “a genuine and lasting peace.”
The two diplomats revealed that Ashkenazi will pay a reciprocal visit to Manama in December, where he will participate in a multilateral forum to discuss regional and international security cooperation issues.
An official Israeli source told The Media Line the two men quickly forged an especially strong bond, adding that they expected “quite a few” bilateral agreements, ranging from economic cooperation to joint technological initiatives, to be signed.
Among other things, the two countries plan to open embassies by the end of the year. Unlike with the UAE, the sides have yet to sign a visa-exemption pact, although Ashkenazi noted that Bahraini citizens wishing to travel to Israel will now be able to apply through a new designated website.
Zayani also discussed the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the need for peace.
“I continue to emphasize, in all my meetings, that in order to achieve and consolidate such peace, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict needs to be resolved. I therefore call for both parties to join around the negotiating table to achieve a viable two-state solution, as is also sought by the international community,” he said.
I continue to emphasize, in all my meetings, that in order to achieve and consolidate such peace, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict needs to be resolved. I therefore call for both parties to join around the negotiating table to achieve a viable two-state solution, as is also sought by the international community
Ashkenazi, too, touched on the dispute, saying: “The region has known too many conflicts and too many wars. It is time for peace. Our door is open to renew negotiations with [the Palestinian Authority].”
On Tuesday, the PA announced it was renewing security coordination with Jerusalem. This came nearly six months after it suspended such ties in protest over Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
Ramallah has vehemently condemned Bahrain and the other Arab states that have normalized or are looking to normalize ties with the Jewish state, saying these moves come at the expense of the Palestinians.
It is also critical of Pompeo and one of the stops on his three-day itinerary while in Israel. According to the State Department, the outgoing secretary will visit a winery in a settlement in the West Bank. He will also go sightseeing in the Golan Heights.
Both are territories that were conquered by Israel during the 1967 war and have since remained in dispute according to international resolutions.
For at least one person, though, there was no controversy.
“We are looking forward to [a stop by Pompeo] and are making preparations, even though we haven’t received any official confirmation of his visit,” Yaakov Berg, CEO of the Psagot Winery, located east of Ramallah, told The Media Line.
“Israel never had a more loving and supportive and serious and smart and reasonable administration than Trump’s, and I hope that the new Biden administration will learn from it because you can’t argue with the results,” he said.
Israel never had a more loving and supportive and serious and smart and reasonable administration than Trump’s, and I hope that the new Biden administration will learn from it because you can’t argue with the results
Last year, the small winery made headlines when a European Union court decreed that its products – and all others produced in Jewish communities in the disputed territories – must be marked as “Made in Israeli settlements” for distribution in Europe.
The winery is not actually situated in a settlement of the same name, which is adjacent to Ramallah.
Following the EU decision, Pompeo issued an unprecedented statement calling the establishment of “Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank… not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” thus upending longstanding US policy.
To express its gratitude, the winery named a limited edition of wine after the secretary.
“I am willing to promise that anyone who does as many good things for the Jewish people as Pompeo did – we will love and respect and appreciate them and name a wine after him,” Berg joked.