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November 10, 2022 1:05 pm
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In First Official Visit to Bahrain, Israel Air Force Chief Attends Regional Aviation Conference

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

The flags of Israel and Bahrain flutter along a road, in Netanya, Israel, Sept. 14, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Nir Elias.

For the first time in history, a high-ranking Israeli Air Force commander has entered the Kingdom of Bahrain to take part in a conference of international air force commanders. The development is yet another sign that defense ties between the two countries are growing.

“This visit continues the strengthening of relations and cooperation between the IDF and the militaries of the region, and the US Central Command in particular,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

IAF Chief of Air Staff, Brig. Gen. Eyal Grinboim, participated in a conference which was hosted by the Commander of the Royal Bahraini Air Force, and was attended by the Deputy Commander of the Ninth Air Force (AFCENT) Maj. Gen. David Harris; Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command Brad Cooper; the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces (NAVCENT); and other senior officials from India; Italy; the United Kingdom; Brazil and other countries.

Since Bahrain and Israel agreed to formalize their diplomatic ties in Sept. 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, direct flights have been launched and a rapprochement of defense ties have been sought. Israel has also normalized ties with other Arab countries like the United Arab Emirates. The historic agreements have helped facilitate coordination between Israeli, American, and Arab forces to address shared threats, including Iran.

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Back in June, Israel announced it was building a US-sponsored Middle East air defense alliance as tensions have mounted over Iran’s nuclear program and Teheran attacks in recent years. Seven percent of Israel’s defense exports are now sold to the Gulf, helping fuel a record $11.3 billion in arms sales in 2021.

In October, Bahraini Minister of Industry and Commerce Zayed Alzayani headed an economic delegation to Israel in anticipation that the two countries will sign a free trade agreement by the end of 2022.

Grinboim also attended the Bahrain International Airshow where for the first time Israel’s largest defense contractors, including Elbit Systems Ltd., Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), presented their advanced civilian and defense aviation systems.

“Today, we are making history by participating in the BIAS [Bahrain International Airshow] as an Israeli company for the first time,” IAI said in a tweet. “The way to bring a better future for our region is through collaboration& sharing knowledge.”

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