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February 15, 2022 1:37 pm
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In Historic Visit, Bennett Pushes ‘Peace’ With Bahraini People and Common Fight Against Iranian Threat

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, on Feb. 15 Feb., 2022. Photo: Haim Zach / GPO

Naftali Bennett met on Tuesday with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, calling for a “people-to-people peace” alongside a common front against the threats posed by Iran and other challenges.

In the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Bahrain, Bennett was welcomed by a military band playing “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, at the palace of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in the capital Manama, before meeting one-on-one with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“I view this as a very big opportunity here,” Bennett stated. “I come from Israel with a spirit of good will, of cooperation, of standing together amidst mutual challenges and I think our goal in this visit is to turn it from government-to-government, to people-to-people peace and to convert it from ceremonies to substance.”

“By fostering this relationship in high-tech, in trade, in agriculture, in technology and many other areas, we can do great things together,” he added.

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The historic visit comes after Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in Sept. 2020 agreed to formalize their diplomatic ties with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords, brokered with the help of the US.

“Peace should be the endeavor for all responsible peoples. Not that we have ever had a war but relations between our two countries were not at a level that could be construed as normal,” stated Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. “If we see a wider Middle East that is free from conflict, that is based on principles of mutual respect, understanding, and sharing responsibility towards security, we must do more to get to know one another and build upon the Abraham Accords, which have been such an historic agreement.”

Earlier, speaking to Bahraini daily Al-ayam in his first interview with an Arabic Gulf newspaper, Bennett said Israel and Bahrain are dealing with “major security challenges that stem from the same source — the Islamic Republic of Iran, which destabilized the entire region.”

“Iran supports terrorist organizations that operate in your region and ours to achieve one goal: to destroy moderate countries that care about the welfare of their people and to achieve stability and peace and put blood-thirsty terrorist organizations in their place. We will not allow that,” Bennett exclaimed.

“We are fighting Iran and its proxies in the region day and night, and we will help our friends in promoting peace, security and stability, if needed,” he said.

Addressing the talks in Vienna on a nuclear accord with Iran, Bennett cautioned that reaching an agreement with the Islamic Republic would be a “strategic mistake,” allowing Tehran to “maintain its nuclear capabilities and obtain hundreds of billions of dollars, which will strengthen its terrorist machine that harms many countries in the region and around the world.”

Hebrew media reported Tuesday that Israel had dispatched an envoy to Vienna for the first time since negotiations began there.

With Bahrain hosting the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and several international naval task forces, Bennett also met on Tuesday with US Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper during his visit to the country.

The Israeli prime minister praised the cooperation between the IDF and the US Armed Forces, describing the US Fifth Fleet as a “significant” element in maintaining regional stability in the face of various security threats.

During the official visit, Bennett also met Bahraini Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and other ministers of industry, tourism, agriculture, transportation, and telecommunications.

The Bahraini Foreign Minister welcomed Bennett and said that he was “among friends” in Bahrain.

“I feel that already,” Bennett replied.

The officials discussed deepening cooperation in the fields of innovation, the economy and technology, and noted geographical advantages held by both countries, in areas like trade between Asia and Europe.

At a meeting with heads of the Bahraini Jewry, Bennett commended the local Jewish community for playing a central role in realizing the peace accords between Bahrain and the Jewish state. The Jewish community is regarded “highly” by the Bahraini leadership, he said, serving as a model for cooperation between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.

 

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