A senior Israeli rabbi has visited Bahrain under the pretext of attending a religious event and met with the kingdom’s monarch, as Tel Aviv and its Arab allies speed up attempts to normalize ties following years of clandestine contacts.
Shlomo Amar, chief rabbi of Jerusalem al-Quds, on Monday concluded the rare visit to Bahrain, where he attended a conference of religious leaders at the invitation of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, Israeli media reported.
During his visit, which was organized by the Israeli foreign ministry, Amar met with the king and religious figures from several other Arab countries, including Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
“Middle East nations want peace with Israel, the leadership should promote that without fear,” Amar said during his stay, expressing hope that in the future, such visits would not require special preparation.
He was referring to the Al Khalifah regime’s fear of public backlash in the kingdom — where anti-Israel and pro-Palestine sentiments run high — against attempts to normalize ties with Israel.
Israel has full diplomatic ties with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but recent reports suggest Tel Aviv has been working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with other Arab countries as well.
Earlier in October, the Britain-based and Arabic-language Bahrain al-Youm news agency, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, reported that Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah had held a secret meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu in Hungary in April.
In July, Israeli and Bahraini foreign ministers Israel Katz and Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah met for a brief chat on Iran in Washington and the two posed for a rare photograph.In June, the Bahraini top diplomat told The Times of Israel that “Israel is a country in the region… … and it’s there to stay, of course,” expressing desire for better relations and eventually “peace” with the Tel Aviv regime.
Those comments drew condemnations from the Bahraini public and the Palestinians, who said the remarks amounted to “open treachery” and contradicted “the position of the brotherly people of Bahrain.”
The kingdom in the same month infuriated the Palestinians by hosting a US-led conference on President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The contentious proposal — already rejected by the Palestinians — has the backing of Arab regimes and is widely believed to be aimed at consolidating Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.