Bahrain informed Israel more than two years ago that it was interested in normalizing relations, Israel’s Channel 13 news network has reported.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa held a secret meeting with former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on the sidelines of the 2017 Munich Security Conference in Germany, the report said.
He told Livni that Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had decided to move towards normalized relations with Tel Aviv, the television cited unnamed senior Israeli officials as saying.
The Bahraini foreign minister also asked her to pass the message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which she did, the report added.
Israel has recently stepped up its push to make its clandestine ties with Arab governments public and establish formal relations with them. Only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, have open diplomatic relations with Israel.
Hani Marzouk, a spokesman for Netanyahu’s office for Arab media, said in November that Bahrain would be the next Arab country without formal diplomatic relations with Israel to host Netanyahu.
In October, Netanyahu met with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos in Muscat, but the controversial visit was kept secret until after the Israeli premier returned to the occupied territories.
Bahrain’s foreign minister has denied an imminent visit by Netanyahu but said he would not hesitate to announce it if one were planned.
Israel’s economy minister Eli Cohen said in November that he has been invited to a technology event slated for next April in Bahrain.
Inside Bahrain, public opinion is largely opposed to Manama’s potential normalization of ties with Israel, which is viewed as a blow to Palestinian struggles against occupation.
Several protests have been held in the Persian Gulf kingdom against normalization with Tel Aviv in parallel with rallies against Bahrain’s ruling family.