Jewish and pro-Israel groups welcome Israel-Bahrain normalization agreement

September 13, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Jewish and pro-Israel groups instantly applauded Israel and Bahrain for agreeing on Friday to normalize relations between the two countries—the second of its kind between Israel and a Persian Gulf nation in the wake of the United Arab Emirates.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with King Hamed bin Issa of Bahrain during their bilateral meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017. Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

It’s also the fourth peace accord between Israel and a Middle Eastern country, following Egypt in 1979, Jordan in 1994 and the UAE, which agreed to such a deal on Aug. 13 and is scheduled to formalize it in a White House ceremony on Tuesday.

Bahrain will also be part of the ceremony, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani will sign a declaration of peace, according to a joint statement released by the United States, Bahrain and Israel.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted that the agreement is “Another HISTORIC breakthrough,” spoke on Friday with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa and Netanyahu, who called the agreement “a pivot of history, a pivot toward peace.”

Between Israel and Bahrain, they will exchange ambassadors, have direct flights and launch economic initiatives, said Trump in the Oval Office shortly after announcing the deal.

It is currently unknown where the Bahraini embassy in Israel will be located. Most countries have embassies in Tel Aviv. The United States and Guatemala are the only ones to have theirs in Jerusalem, both having relocated there in May 2018. The Emirati one will be in Tel Aviv.

The full details of the Israel-Bahrain deal have yet to be announced.

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) said that the historic news that Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain have agreed to normalise full diplomatic and security relations is yet another highly positive step towards a peaceful Middle East, said today. Bahrain will become the fourth Arab country to pursue full diplomatic relations with Israel.

“This is a watershed, historic move, coming so quickly on the heels of the agreement announced between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last month,” AIJAC national chairman Mark Leibler said.

“This agreement, together with the UAE one, will contribute greatly to a more peaceful Middle East and enhance the security of both Israel and its Gulf state partners.”

“Normalisation between Israel and Bahrain will also open up a trove of untapped commercial, tourism and scientific opportunities between the two states,” he added.

AIJAC notes with regret that once again, the Palestinian leadership have condemned a reconciliation deal that will ultimately enhance the stability of the region – and could potentially help contribute to a lasting, negotiated two-state peace deal.

“Peace and positive relations between states are always a positive good, but the normalisation deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain have the potential to positively transform a region that has been the world’s most volatile for many decades,” AIJAC executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said, “It is thus highly regrettable that the Palestinian leadership choose to  withdraw their diplomatic representative in Bahrain and condemn the deal as causing ‘great harm’.”

“For the Palestinian leadership to condemn an act of peace, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities it could create for Palestinians, is not only counterproductive and disappointing, but characteristic of an unfortunate pattern of rejectionism and inability to rethink entrenched positions that has served that Palestinian people poorly,” Dr. Rubenstein concluded.

The Zionist Federation of Australia warmly welcomed the historic news of normalisation between Bahrain and Israel and congratulates the leaders of both countries.

Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said, “This truly historic event reflects the continued realisation of the Zionist vision. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish people have longed for the time when the Jewish state, in the historic and cultural Land of Israel, is at peace with its neighbours. We are seeing this come to pass.”

“We hope that the momentum we are now seeing will result in further peace agreements signed with Israel’s neighbours in the near future”, Mr Leibler continued.

In the few weeks since the announcement of Israel–UAE normalisation, we have seen once insurmountable barriers swept aside. Direct flights between the two countries have been established. The two leaders have spoken by phone, and trading and investment relationships in water, agricultural and high-tech industries are already being forged.

The leaders of Bahrain are clearly keen to ride this wave of history, and they should be congratulated for pursuing this path to peace.

The normalisation deals with the UAE and Bahrain is cause for genuine celebration in the region and in Jewish communities worldwide, including Australia. The ZFA looks forward to the establishment of warm cultural, diplomatic and trade ties. Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have much to offer each other.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said: “The agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has opened a new chapter in the Middle East and we are seeing the change it is bringing to our region with the decision by Bahrain to also take the path of friendship and to establish full relations with the State of Israel. I would like to express my appreciation to the prime minister, the King of Bahrain, the President of the United States and all those who have worked on this wonderful achievement. I call on other Arab and Muslim countries to make peace with Israel, peace between peoples, peace for peace.”

‘A very auspicious moment’

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the development “another historic demonstration of a new promising era in Israeli-Arab relations.”

“These diplomatic achievements are a testament to the fact that a strong and secure Israel, backed by the United States, is critical to bringing reconciliation to the region,” said AIPAC in a statement. “The old and unproductive paradigm of boycotts and rejectionism is collapsing, and a new model of peace, prosperity and cooperation is emerging.”

“Now is the time for other countries in the region and the Palestinian leadership to embrace this model, and cement new ties and forge lasting peace and security in the Middle East,” continued AIPAC.

“Historically, sustainable Arab-Israel peace agreements have been achieved with active United States leadership. The back-to-back agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and now Bahrain, were achieved with the full engagement of the U.S. administration,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “We thank President Trump and his team who saw these possibilities, and welcome the winds of change in the Middle East that lay the foundation for greater peace, cooperation and prosperity.”

Jewish Council for Public Affairs president and CEO David Bernstein told JNS that his organization “could not be more pleased that Bahrain and Israel are normalizing relations. This is a very auspicious moment for Israel and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.”

Jewish groups from both sides of the political aisle applauded the development.

“Now is the time for other countries in the region and the Palestinian leadership to embrace this model.”

“Bahrain’s decision to normalize relations with Israel demonstrates the growing conviction in the region that now is the time to set aside old conflicts, stand united against the threat of Iran, and engage in economic, technological, scientific and cultural cooperation with Israel that will improve the lives of all the peoples of the Middle East,” said Republican Jewish Coalition national chairman former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) in a statement.

Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman told JNS, “From Bahrain and the UAE to Chad and Malawi, countries once at best skeptical of Israel are turning into friends. We salute the wisdom of all these countries in recognizing both the mutual benefits of strong ties with Israel, and Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in peace and security.”

“Bahrain’s decision to normalize relations with Israel is yet another positive indicator that change in the region is moving in a welcome, positive direction,” B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS. “The UAE, and now Bahrain, are sending a strong and unmistakable message that peace and stability in the region are indeed reachable.”

Sarah Stern, founder and president of Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), called Friday’s development “yet another indication of the blossoming of warm relations between Israel and the Sunni Gulf states that had been up until now ‘under the table.’ ”

The new development “shows that these Arab partners understand and appreciate that the Jewish state is not going anywhere, that Israel is here to stay; that they have a tremendous amount that they can share and learn from  Israel, in terms of high tech, cybersecurity, water irrigation and agriculture, and in the age of COVID-19, medicine,” she said.

At least since 2019, Bahrain has been improving its diplomatic relations with Israel. In June of that year, it hosted the “Peace to Prosperity” conference, where the United States released the economic component of its Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. The following August, Bahrain joined the U.S.-led coalition against to protect shipping in the Gulf against Iran.

Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain opened its airspace last week to allow flights between Israel and the UAE.

This week, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain agreed to open their airspace to flights east from Israel.

‘A sea change of attitudes’

Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS that the Bahrain-Israel normalization deal is a loss for two of Israel’s enemies—Palestinian leadership and the BDS movement—and that U.S. President Donald Trump “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize,” which the president was formally nominated for this week for brokering the Israel-UAE peace deal.

“The more Islamic countries that make peace with Israel, the less impact the Palestinian terrorist dictatorship’s antisemitic propaganda lies and the BDS movement against Israel will impact,” he said.

“The walls of isolation around Israel are crumbling.”

American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen told JNS, “We are witnessing a sea change of attitudes: the Israel-UAE agreement, the decision of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to allow Israeli flights to use their airspace, the refusal of the Arab League to condemn the Israel-UAE accord.”

American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman told JNS that the Emirati and Bahraini normalization deals with Israel exemplify “a new era, but one rooted in history.”

“Muslims and Jews, as in centuries past, will once again be able to channel their considerable talents and resources into projects that will benefit all of humanity,” he said. “For the Greater Sephardic community, these developments are at once historic and personal in ways that may be difficult for others to understand. With shared roots in the region and [those] who have in recent memory experienced the trauma of exile, it is deeply moving to see one Arab country after another welcome them, in freedom and friendship, to be fully Jewish.”

“Acceptance of Israel and its integration into the Middle East is a positive development for regional stability, for American interests, and no less importantly, for Israelis not being unfairly ostracized by other states,” said Israel Policy Forum in a statement. “We hope that Bahrain’s addition to the list of Arab states that have open and official relations with Israel paves the way for more such developments in the months and years ahead.”

At last, “the walls of isolation around Israel are crumbling,” Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations told JNS.

Even J Street, which is usually highly critical of Israel, welcomed the deal.

“As with the UAE agreement, this is a positive development. Here is some context on the long history of Bahrain-Israel relations, from [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak] Rabin under Oslo [in the 1990s] to today,” tweeted J Street. “And while normalization is welcome, real *peace* requires an agreement that resolves the issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

Jackson Richman [JNS]/J-Wire

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